In March 2011, Scotland’s health secretary Nicola Sturgeon announced plans to improve Scotland’s cancer survival rate and pinpointed late detection of cancer as one of the main reasons why Scotland was seen as inferior to many countries in Europe.
Throughout November, leading oral health charity the British Dental Health Foundation is hoping to improve early detection of mouth cancer with its campaign message of ‘If in doubt, get checked out.”
Without early diagnosis, one in two people who contract mouth cancer die. However, early detection of the disease can improve five year survival rates to 90 per cent. The issue is particularly important in Scotland, which has the highest rates of mouth cancer incidence in the UK. Survival rates are equally poor – around 50 per cent more deaths per 100,000 people compared to the UK average1.
Foundation Chief Executive Dr Nigel Carter said: “It is generally considered that one of the major reasons that cancer survival in Scotland lags behind the best performing countries in the world is late diagnosis. When cancer is detected early, treatment is more likely to be effective.
“Early detection is particularly important to survive mouth cancer and recognising the warning signs is something that everyone should be familiar with. They include ulcers which do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth.
“Knowing the risks is also important as mouth cancer can be prevented in many cases. Tobacco use, alcohol abuse, poor diet, using smokeless tobacco and the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), transmitted via oral sex are all risk factors that can be avoided through different lifestyle choices.
“Our message to everyone – whatever the cancer – is ‘If in doubt, get checked out.'”