Tuesday, August 25, 2009

UK'S Largest-Ever Mouth Cancer Campaign Announced

THE UK's leading mouth cancer campaigners announce the first ever Mouth Cancer Action Month today after recent figures showed record numbers diagnosed with the disease.

The British Dental Health Foundation will run its first-ever month-long campaign for the duration of November after previous week-long campaigns.

The charity now calls on dentists, pharmacists and all dental care professionals to lend their support to a campaign advising the public 'If In Doubt, Get Checked Out'. The tagline will urge the public to get to self-examine for signs of mouth cancer and visit their dentist for oral screenings - early detection of this killer disease improves survival chances from just 50% to more than 90%.

At the heart of the campaign lies the inspirational story of Lia Mills, the face of the MCAM 2009 poster campaign.

Novelist Lia, 52, was diagnosed with mouth cancer in 2006 after first ignoring her lump, then facing a struggle to convince her dentist there was more to her ulcer than lichen planus. Her speech at the 2008 Mouth Cancer Action Week launch at the House of Commons had a deep impact on all present.

Lia said: "Doesn't everyone know, by now, that if you have a lump or a sore that doesn't heal within a few weeks, you should check it out? But I didn't take my lump seriously because it was in my mouth. I'd never heard of oral cancer.

"I had put up with this for a while before I went to the dentist. He recommended a gel commonly used for mouth ulcers. The sore area spread and a second dentist concluded that I had erosive lichen planus. He said he was glad that I'm not the kind of person who runs to my GP at the first suggestion from the internet.

"However the sore area in my cheek was getting worse instead of better, I did go to my GP. By then I had a swollen gland in my neck as well. By the time I got to a maxillo-facial clinic I needed radical surgery to my face and neck, followed by radiotherapy. "The chances of survival improve dramatically with early intervention."

The Foundation calls on each dentist to make sure they screen every patient carefully and make sure they are the dentist who will save a life.

Recent figures showed 5,325 cases of mouth cancer in 2006, an 8% year-on-year rise and a 41% rise in just 10 years.

Latest stats show 1,851 deaths in 2007, a 13% increase in the past decade - with one mouth cancer death every five hours in the UK.

These figures are stark proof of the importance of taking this threat seriously and committing to Mouth Cancer Action Month.

The Foundation urges all healthcare professionals to get involved in promoting awareness. Oral screenings are just one important tool to help early detection.

Prevention is also key and public awareness of main risk factors tobacco and alcohol - responsible for 75% of mouth cancers - must be raised. The growing threat of mouth cancers caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), contracted through oral sex, cannot be ignored.

Those at risk are a wider group than ever. More and more cases display none of the traditional risk factors, while a growing proportion of women and a younger age-group than ever before are now being diagnosed.

The Blue Ribbon Badge Appeal will continue to help raise awareness during this year's MCAM. The Blue Ribbon enamel pin badge is the sign of the campaign and has helped raise funds and the profile of the campaign.

Free boxes of blue campaign ribbon badges are available to all surgeries, practices, health centres, pharmacies, hospitals, schools and businesses to help raise funds through donation and promote discussion of the disease.

Foundation chief executive Dr Nigel Carter said: "It is vital that we gain your support as recent shocking figures show mouth cancer is on the increase. This proves an urgent need to ensure that each and every dental patient is screened for mouth cancer and informed of the risks.

"People must understand the threat posed by tobacco and alcohol and HPV and be advised on the best possible lifestyle choices to stay healthy.

"This risk awareness is then augmented by oral screening and self-examination for warning signs such as ulcers which do not heal, red or white patches or other unusual changes in the mouth. This kind of early detection will save lives.

"Don't be the dentist who leaves a patient at risk of mouth cancer - make sure your practice is on message to spread awareness and that oral screenings are an effective, everyday priority."

The Foundation has made it easier than ever to get involved through the extended opportunity afforded by the month-long campaign, advised and supported by the Department of Health, Cancer Research UK.

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