As if there hasn’t been enough to worry about lately, there is now concerning news regarding delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment as a result of COVID-19. It’s estimated that around 44,000 fewer people have started cancer treatment since the pandemic began, caused largely by lockdown measures and the postponement of routine NHS care. This has led to a significant drop in vital treatments, diagnostic tests and outpatient appointments, as well as surgical delays and cancellations.
Dental services have also been hit by the pandemic with recent research indicating the number of missed appointments has exceeded 14 million[i]. The British Dental Association (BDA) anticipates many patients with untreated decay will end up requiring more extensive and costly interventions as a result of limited access to dental treatment during the past 12 months. However, more concerning still is the potential rise in oral cancers, which are going undetected in the absence of routine dental check-ups.
New cases of mouth cancer in the UK reached 8,772 last year, an increase of 58% in the last decade and almost double the number of cases compared to 20 years ago. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, oral cancer has the potential to be a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off.
Are you aware of mouth cancer?
The more we know about mouth cancer, the better chance we have of beating it. This means knowing how to spot symptoms early, knowing what to do if you feel there are unusual changes going on in your mouth and reducing your risk by cutting down on the things that are known to increase the risk of mouth cancer.
With limited access to dental services at the moment, it’s more important than ever to be vigilant and know how or why mouth cancer can strike. Some of the symptoms to look out for include:
- mouth ulcers or red or white patches anywhere in your mouth that do not heal within three weeks
- any unusual swelling or lump in your mouth, jaw or neck
- difficulty swallowing, chewing or moving your jaw or tongue
- numbness of your tongue or any other area of the mouth
- unexplained loosening of teeth
What causes mouth cancer?
The main causes of mouth cancer are known to include:
- smoking and tobacco use – this is the number one risk factor
- drinking alcohol to excess can increase the risk four fold
- drinking and smoking together increases the risk even further
- infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV)
- Too much sun exposure can cause skin cancer which can affect the lips and face
We’re here to help
If mouth cancer is detected early, then the chances of a cure are good. If you have any concerns, it’s really important to see your dentist or doctor as soon as possible. There is probably nothing seriously wrong but it is far better to be safe than sorry.
At 543 Dental Centre, looking out for signs of mouth cancer are an important part of our routine dental check-ups and we are happy to see anyone with any concerns at any time. Screening for mouth cancer only takes a few minutes, it’s a non-invasive procedure and we recommend it for all our patients.
If you would like to book an appointment please contact the practice.