“Oral cancer screenings are essential”

22 November 2021
2 min read

This November is Mouth Cancer Action Month Month - a charity campaign which aims to raise awareness of mouth cancer and save lives by promoting the values of prevention and early detection, making everybody more mouthaware.

And now, John Sanders, from Plymouth, is encouraging others to check for signs themselves, after a routine dental check-up with the University of Plymouth’s Peninsula Dental School during lockdown revealed a cancerous lump.

Jasleen Batra, who was a trainee dentist at the time but is now fully qualified, spoke to John about his oral health; the conversation suggested his oral health was fine. However, when Jasleen performed her examination, by running her fingers from his chin along his jaw line, she found his lymph gland was swollen and very hard, which, following her referral to Derriford Hospital, was discovered to be cancer, originating from the tonsils.

John is now encouraging people to check for signs themselves and speak to their dentist, dental team member or GP if they have concerns.

He told Wales Online, “I hadn’t been in pain at all, but Jasleen found a hard lump under my jaw, which I then felt with my hand. She calmly explained the need for an urgent referral and less than two weeks later, I went for an examination and then a biopsy. The consultant informed me that I had malignant and aggressive cancer of the tonsils that had spread to the lymph gland and surroundings.

“I underwent surgery to have as much of the cancer as possible removed and the surgeon told me that the cancerous lymph gland had grown by 12mm in just 10 days between my appointments, so it was very fortunate and of great importance to my future health that Jasleen discovered it when she did.

“I do not wish to contemplate the possible ramifications had Jasleen not recognised the potential problem early, but also had the courage of her convictions to refer me for further urgent checks.

“I’m completely in her debt, and, if anything can come from my experience, it’s that people need to check for signs before it’s too late.

“There are national campaigns to check breasts and testicles for lumps and abnormalities, but no one really thinks about checking their mouth. It was luck that I had an appointment, and wish I’d known about checking myself. It’s really important that we all know how to do it and speak to a professional if we have concerns.”

Meanwhile, Jasleen told the online publication, “Oral cancer screenings are essential and are now routine every time you see a dentist. However, checking at home is so simple and should be promoted more. Having a good look around your mouth, including your lips, cheek, tongue, under your tongue, the back of your throat and the top of your mouth with a mirror takes less than a minute a day, but means you would catch any changes early before they become more serious.

“I am so glad Mr Sanders came to see me when he did and glad to hear he is doing well. I was just doing my job and what the staff at Peninsula Dental School have taught me over the years. I hope his story creates awareness that may save lives in the future.”

Mouth Cancer Action Month runs throughout November, and Peninsula Dental School, and placement provider Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise, are promoting patient and public self-screening.