Oral cancer awareness
Every time you have a check-up with the Port Erin Dental Surgery, we will also check for oral cancer.
Mouth cancer is a rare condition.
However, it does seem to increase, particularly in women and younger people.
This is believed to be linked, at least to some extent, to an increased consumption of tobacco and alcohol.
It is a potentially fatal condition, taking more lives every year.
In the UK, approximately 5000 people are diagnosed with mouth cancer each year, almost 2000 of them losing their lives to the disease.
The best chance of beating mouth cancer lies in early detection, which improves survival rates to 90 per cent.
Without early detection, survival rates go down to 50 per cent.
This is why we screen all our patients for signs of mouth cancer.
Questions and Answers
What are the symptoms of mouth cancer?
Very few, if any at all, unfortunately.
This is why we every year screen thousands of people without any symptoms whatsoever.
What do I do if I worry about it?
Book an appointment with your dentist, who will have a look at it and refer you for further investigation if it looks even remotely suspicious.
If the dentist is confident that a finding is benign, a note may still be entered in your records and followed up at your next check-up.
Better safe than sorry..
What can I do to prevent it?
Two of the largest known risk factors is tobacco and alcohol and especially a combination of the two.
Tobacco should be avoided completely, and alcohol should be consumed with moderation.
The standard recommendation of no more than 14 units of alcohol per week for women and 21 units for men is at this time considered safe.
Should I worry about it?
No, you should not, let the dentist do that. You should be aware of it, avoid the known risk factors and see your dentist if there is something you do not feel sure about.
What does mouth cancer look like?
Ulcers without any obvious explanation that do not go away within a week or two, white patches that were not there before or lumps that were not there before, will be what we look for at your check-up.
What happens if my dentist finds something suspicious?
The dentist will refer you to a specialist at Noble’s hospital in Douglas.
Remember: it does not have to be particularly suspicious looking for this to happen.
If the dentist is not absolutely confident about what it is, that will
be enough for a referral.
The specialist who sees you will decide whether a specimen will be sent for analysis or not and whether any other investigations are necessary.
Should I worry now, then?
No, you should not.
A typical dentist will come across only a few cases of mouth cancer during his whole professional life. Some never see any at all.
Throughout his career, he may refer hundreds of patients for something that turns out to be perfectly benign.
However, the few genuine cases that are caught early, makes it well worth all the paperwork and the worry it causes!
Where can I find out more about mouth cancer?
Here are some links that you may find useful.
Remember: If you are concerned about something, we would much rather see you once too often.