The Oral Health Foundation urges the public to be more vigilant, as study highlights lack of mouth cancer awareness

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The Oral Health Foundation has urged the public to be more mouth aware, as a study highlights a widespread lack of awareness of the causes and symptoms of mouth cancer.

A survey conducted by the charity found that a third of people are unaware that smoking causes oral cancer, with 57% unaware of the link between mouth cancer and alcohol. Although these figures are alarming, what is more worrying is that only a third of people know which symptoms to look out for. Early warning signs of mouth cancer include slow-healing mouth ulcers and sores and abnormal lumps or swelling.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the foundation, said that public awareness of mouth cancer is very low compared to other forms of cancer, and this is undoubtedly contributing to the majority of cases being diagnosed at a late stage. People don’t know what to look out for, and often, they only see a doctor or a dentist when symptoms are advanced or their diagnosis is made as a result of tests for other conditions. Early diagnosis can improve survival rates by up to 90%, so improving education and encouraging patients to be mouth aware could make a huge difference.

In 2018, 8,300 people were diagnosed with mouth cancer in England. In the last 20 years, the number of cases has risen by 135%, making oral cancer one of the fastest growing forms of cancer. Dental professionals are urging patients to get any potential signs and symptoms checked out and to keep up to date with routine dental checks. Dentists look for abnormalities during check-ups, which should be arranged every 6-12 months.

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