Council chiefs support oral health campaign

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Are you able to recognise changes in your mouth? That’s the question posed by St Helens Council’s Healthy Living Oral Health Team as they support the Oral Health Foundation’s campaign to raise awareness of mouth cancer.

The team is urging residents to be more mouthaware and recognise the early warning signs of mouth cancer, as part of November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month.

With around 7,000 Brits diagnosed with mouth cancer last year, the disease is one of the UK’s fastest increasing cancers, with cases rising by a third in the last decade alone.

Coun Gill Neal, cabinet member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: “Early diagnosis transforms our chances of beating

mouth cancer from 50 per cent to 90 per cent so it is crucial that we know what to look out for and that we don’t hesitate in seeking advice from a health professional.

“Quite often it is easier to notice lumps and bumps on the outside of the body and to dismiss a mouth ulcer as nothing to worry about.

“A simple 45 second check is often all that’s needed to identify anything unusual and then seek professional guidance.”

Joanne Dawber, Oral Health Improvement Officer from the Healthy Living Team, said: “A mouth ulcer which does not heal within three weeks, red or white patches in the mouth and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth, head or neck area, can all be potential signs of mouth, head or neck cancer, so it’s important to be aware of any unusual changes in these areas.

“If you keep a lookout for these symptoms, that simple 45 second self-examination really could save your life.”

Survival rates of mouth cancer have not improved in the last 20 years and the Oral Health Foundation is concerned that too many mouth cancers are being diagnosed at a late stage, significantly reducing our chance to beat the disease.

CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE added: “Mouth cancer can appear anywhere in the mouth including the lips, tongue, cheek, throat and gums.

“Mouth cancer can have a devastating effect on a person’s life, impacting on their breathing, eating and speech. Reconstructive surgery could also change their appearance while the experience often has an impact on confidence and self-esteem.

“By developing a greater understanding about the early warning signs and symptoms, the lifestyle factors which increase our risk and recognising where to go if we notice anything unusual inside our mouth, we can detect mouth cancer early.

“This will not only improve our chances of beating it but will also reduce the amount of invasive surgery which is needed to treat it.

“During every dental check-up, your dentist will do a visual examination for mouth cancer and look for anything that might be a cause for concern. That’s why it’s so important to keep regular dental check-ups – it’s not just about the health of our teeth and gums – a trip to the dentist could really be a life saver.”

Top Tips for reducing the risk of mouth cancer include:

· Stop or reduce your intake of alcohol.

· Do not smoke, do not chew tobacco.

· Eat a healthy, well balanced diet which includes plenty of fruit and vegetables.

· Take regular exercise; advice is available from your GP or health professional.

· Visit your dentist or hygienist regularly, or as often as they recommend.

· Give yourself a mouth, head and neck examination at least once a month.

· Use sun cream protection when in natural daylight.

· Contact your local St Helens Healthy Living Team to discuss the options available to you to support your choices for making healthy lifestyle changes.

The Healthy Living Team’s Oral Health staff have attended several events across libraries, care homes and dental practices to promote the campaign and offer advice, and will be present at further events throughout the month.