People with mouth cancer have no guarantee to receive restorative treatment paid for by the NHS. Mouth cancer campaigners are calling for the inequality to be put right in the new commissioning arrangements for NHS dental contracts to make sure that mouth cancer sufferers are exempt from dental charges.
Dr Chetan Trivedy, Clinical Director at Birwood Dental Care Limited – supported by the British Dental Health Foundation – expressed their concern in an open letter sent to the British Dental Journal and other media. An e-petition has also been established to seek professional and public support, and encourage debate in the House of Commons5.
Mouth cancer campaigners believe there would be a public outcry if patients with any other form of cancer were asked to contribute to the cost of recovering from cancer treatment.
Dr Trivedy said: “I think it is time for the dental profession to stand up for our patients and we have organised an e-petition to encourage Government to add patients who have had mouth cancer to be exempt from dental charges. The current situation of patients, who have had facial surgery and are confronted by the prospect of having to pay for restorative treatment, and on-going dental care themselves, is no longer acceptable. We believe it is only fair that mouth cancer sufferers have the right to receive the same level of treatment and support as any other cancer patient.”
Throughout November, leading oral health charity the British Dental Health Foundation is running Mouth Cancer Action Month, to raise awareness of the risks and symptoms of mouth cancer. Early diagnosis is vital for mouth cancer sufferers. One in two people diagnosed with mouth cancer die without early diagnosis. However, early detection of the disease can improve five year survival rates to 90 per cent.
Mouth cancer campaigners are also concerned about the lack of free examination for mouth cancer from NHS dentists is hindering improvements in mouth cancer survival rates. Many NHS patients have to pay for the privilege of having a mouth cancer check – a condition which kills more than cervical cancer and testicular cancer combined each year.
Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, said: “Early detection is particularly important to survive mouth cancer.
Compared to other cancers, the survival rates for mouth cancer have only marginally improved over the past decade. We hope Government will take a closer look at the current policy and develop new NHS dental commissioning arrangements which actively support early detection of mouth cancer. This commitment would be a major step to save the lives of 30,000 mouth cancer sufferers over the next decade.”
A recent YouGov survey of 1,495 cancer patients for Macmillan Cancer Support has already highlighted the financial hardships of many cancer sufferers4. The survey found that two thirds (66%) reported an increase in costs as a result of travelling to hospital and/or an increase in household expenses. The survey also found that nearly a third (29 per cent) of those financially affected have spent all or some of their savings, and nearly one in ten (9 per cent) have borrowed money to cover the additional costs of cancer. For some mouth cancer patients, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
1. Source: Macmillan Cancer Support.
2. The E-petition is available here.