Cases of mouth cancer in Northern Ireland are expected to almost double by 2035, Cancer Focus Northern Ireland and the British Dental Association (BDA) have revealed.
At present an average of 233 people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with mouth cancer each year. Many are diagnosed at a late stage, with 95 dying from the disease.
Cancer Focus NI and BDA have joined forces to mark Mouth Cancer Month in November by raising awareness of the early signs of mouth cancer and encouraging people to seek medical help if they have any concerns.
Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention, Cancer Focus NI, said: “The main risk factors of mouth cancer are tobacco use and drinking alcohol and together these account for around 75% of mouth cancers. People who both drink and use tobacco are up to 30 times more likely to develop the condition.
“The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is also a leading cause and the recent move to extend the HPV vaccine to include adolescent boys in Northern Ireland will save lives.
“The message is clear – stop smoking, reduce your intake of alcohol, eat a healthy diet with at least five daily servings of fruit and vegetables and remember that early diagnosis can really make the difference. Make sure you visit a dentist and check your mouth regularly – it might just save your life.”
The BDA aims to ensure that mouth cancer features strongly in the new Northern Ireland Cancer Strategy.
Caroline Lappin, Council Chair, BDANI, said: “Clearly public awareness of mouth cancer compared with other cancers is low. This has got to change. It’s alarming that around 70% of mouth cancers are detected at a late stage because people don’t know the warning signs. This often results in lower chances of survival. However, early detection transforms survival chances to more than 90%.
“It’s important to be ‘mouth aware’. Look out for any changes in the mouth such as an ulcer that doesn’t heal or any unusual changes in the mouth, lips, head and neck. Dentists can play an important role in detecting changes so do visit your dentist regularly and seek professional help if you have any concerns.”
For more information on mouth cancer visit www.cancerfocusni.org. Cancer Focus NI also provides information and support Nurse Line to people worried about, or affected by cancer. For advice contact the Cancer Focus NI information and support Nurse Line on 0800 783 3339, Monday to Friday, 9 am to 1pm, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.