Mouth Cancer In The UK – A Report

Burton dentist, Mike Allen, looks at the conclusions of a new report.

The Oral Health Foundation has very recently put out a new report entitled ‘State Of Mouth Cancer UK Report 2018/19. You can download the PDF version here if you wish to do so. Mouth cancer is a very serious issue and one that that this report indicates to be growing.

We have touched on this topic in previous blogs on the Mike Allen’s Dental Practice website, but, with this new report, we feel that it is worth looking at some of the key recent conclusions and then addressing how our practice can help patients minimise their own personal risk of oral cancer.

What does the report say?

The report states that there has been an increase in the number of new cases of mouth cancer each year in the UK of 49% within the last decade, and 135% when compared with 20 years ago. The number of new cases now being reported per year is 8,302.

Over half (56%) of mouth cancers occur either on the tongue or the tonsils.

Last year, there were 2,722 deaths of UK citizens linked to oral cancer.

Depending on the location of the cancer and how early it is detected and treated, the ten year survival rate is currently between 19% and 58%.

88% of adults in the UK are now aware of oral cancer. This is positive news, although only 8% were confident in their knowledge of this serious oral health issue. More bad news is that three quarters of this group did not know what the major symptoms and signs of it were. Generally, overall awareness of this issue remains far too low.

Key challenges to improving oral health

Although there is now more information available about oral cancer, it appears that much more work needs to be done to ensure that people have the information that they need, and that they know how to act upon it. This needs to be propagated at national level, perhaps with increased use of social media, and also in dental practices like our own. Discussions need to take place about lifestyle choices, and especially our drinking and smoking habits.

Education and preventative measures around HPV are also important, with vaccinations playing a potentially major role in reducing the risks caused by this virus.

What can our Burton practice do to help?

Fundamentally, the basics of oral health care are the responsibility of the patient. We can advise and remind you to carry out both an effective brushing routine, along with flossing, but of course you also need to act upon our recommendations. Our dental hygienists are also an excellent source of knowledge on oral health care and we strongly recommend that everyone has an appointment with them on a regular basis.

During these appointments, advice will be given which is likely to include cessation of smoking and also moderating your alcohol intake. We know that some people enjoy these habits, but continuing to do so will definitely increase your risk of mouth cancer.

We will also continue to provide a thorough inspection of the soft tissues of the mouth during your six monthly check ups. Whilst we can’t actually diagnose cancer symptoms, it does put us in an excellent position to notice anything that looks potentially suspicious.

Some of the things that we look for during your oral health check include persistent ulcers, red or white patches or unusual lumps in the mouth. This are all major potential indicators of a serious problem such as mouth cancer. Some of these may be explainable, such as a recent burning of the mouth through drinking a cup of tea too hot, or where soreness has been caused by a rough tooth edge grazing the tongue. Unless there are any clear explanations though, we will advise you to arrange an appointment with your GP, to be on the safe side.

If we recommend this, we do ask that you carry it out. As you can see from earlier in the blog, there is a wide disparity of survival rates depending on when the cancer was detected. Receiving an early diagnosis and treatment is more likely to give you a better outcome, and potentially, a much longer life.

Please take oral cancer seriously. It is a growing problem that can take lives. We are here to help you with all aspects of your oral health care, from cancer prevention to the more aesthetic aspects of modern cosmetic dentistry. If you would like to make an appointment to see myself or another dentist at our Burton practice, please call Mike Allen’s Dental Practice for an appointment on 01283 845345.

Mike Allen – Principal dentist and owner – GDC 55931