Your support needed as UK mouth cancer cases reach record high

01 November 2020
2 min read
Published:

New cases of mouth cancer in the United Kingdom have risen to a record high, according to the findings of a new report.

Figures collected by the Oral Health Foundation show that 8,722 people in the UK were diagnosed with the disease last year, increasing by 97 per cent since 2000.

Mouth cancer cases in the UK have soared for the 11th year in a row and have more than doubled within the last generation.

The findings are part of the charity’s new State of Mouth Cancer UK Report 2020/21 and have been released to coincide with November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month.

Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, believes with mouth cancer cases continuing to rise, more must be done to raise awareness of the disease.

Nigel says, “While many cancers are seeing a reduction in the number of people affected, mouth cancer is one of very few that is sadly going the other way. Established risk factors like smoking and excessive alcohol have been joined by emerging causes like the human papillomavirus (HPV). This has changed the profile of the disease quite considerably over recent years and mouth cancer can now affect anybody.

“The disease can have a devastating and lasting effect on a person’s life. It can change how somebody speaks, it makes eating and drinking more difficult, and often leads to changes a person’s physical appearance. Because of this, it also takes a heavy toll on a person’s mental health too.

“One of the biggest challenges we face regarding mouth cancer is how little educational support it receives from government and public health bodies. As part of Mouth Cancer Action Month, we are appealing for your help to improve awareness of the disease so that more people are able to recognise the early warning signs.” 

Statistics from governing health bodies across the UK show around two-in-three (67 per cent) mouth cancers are recorded in men while three-in-four (78 per cent) are in the over-55s.

Mouth cancer is most likely to occur in the tongue, contributing to more than one-in-three (34 per cent) cases. Mouth cancer can also appear in the tonsils, the roof and floor of the mouth, lips and gums.

The early warning signs of the disease include mouth ulcers that do not heal within three weeks, red or white patches in the mouth, or unusual lumps and swellings. Persistent hoarseness could also be a symptom.

Catherine Rutland, clinical director at Denplan, part of Simplyhealth, speaks about the importance of continuing our  support for Mouth Cancer Action Month since its inception twenty years ago.

Catherine says, “Denplan has always championed the importance of highlighting mouth cancer to patients through our member dentists. This is our 20th year sponsoring the campaign, and the amazing work that the Oral Health Foundation do, and now it is more important than ever. The limited access to dental care as a result of the pandemic will significantly reduce the number of people who are picked up and referred early. Early diagnosis vastly improves prognosis and the risk of complications.

“As dental professionals, we have the opportunity to lead conversations on mouth cancer and make sure that patients are aware of the risks, signs and symptoms. If we can help people to make positive lifestyle choices, remain vigilant to any changes in their mouth, and seek professional help at the earliest stage, we can help to save lives.”

In aid of Mouth Cancer Action Month, Dental Update – in partnership with Denplan, Oral-B and the Oral Health Foundation – has put together a series of webinars throughout November.  These webinars bring together a range of expert presenters are free to attend.

Registrations are now open here.

The charity has also created a range of digital resources for you to display in waiting rooms, share via email and practices newsletters, and on social media.  All of these can be accessed from the Mouth Cancer Action Month digital toolkit, which you can download here.

By registering your support at www.mouthcancer.org, the Oral Health Foundation will send you a free poster to display in your practice, and an enamel Blue Ribbon Badge.