Today (February 4th) is World Cancer Day, an opportunity for all healthcare professionals to inform their patients about the dangers of the disease and how best to avoid contracting it. For dentists, the focus is naturally going to be on oral cancer, one of the most serious health problems people in the industry have to face.
At this time, the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF) has recommended that dentists take a proactive approach to tackling the disease. This is desperately needed, as a growing number of people are being affected by mouth cancer. Currently 6,767 people are diagnosed with the disease every year in the UK, a number that has increased by 50 per cent over the last ten years.
To reduce this rate, is essential people are aware of the risk factors for the disease and how to avoid them. Cancer Research UK has discovered that around 90 per cent of all mouth cancer cases are caused by one of four things: tobacco use, drinking alcohol to excess, poor diet and the human papillomavirus.
It is also a good idea for people to be aware of the signs of the disease. Like all cancers, the earlier the disease is discovered the more likely it is to be treatable. A major problem with oral cancer is that many people don’t understand the symptoms, or know to go to a GP or dentist if they spot them.
Ulcers that do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth can all be early signs of mouth cancer, so it is definitely worth getting them checked out by a professional.
“Choosing healthy lifestyles and early detection are two of the messages World Cancer Day will be promoting on February 4th,” said BDHF chief executive Dr Nigel Carter. “It is almost as though these messages were created with mouth cancer in mind, given the huge significance they can make to reducing the risk of the disease and catching it early.”