This month, the British Dental Health Foundation has launched a national campaign to raise awareness of oral cancer. Mouth Cancer Action Month is being celebrated across the UK, with many dental practices offering screening sessions and running events to help raise awareness of the potentially deadly disease in local communities.
Oral cancer: the facts
Most people are shocked when they hear the figures relating to oral cancer; each year more than 5,000 cases are diagnosed and one person dies from the disease every five hours in the UK. Oral cancer causes more deaths than cervical cancer and testicular cancer, yet very few people are aware of the signs and symptoms, and consequently most cases are not diagnosed until the cancer has reached an advanced stage.
In the last decade alone, the number of cases of oral cancer in the UK has increased by 40 percent and an increasing number of young people are developing the disease, according to the British Dental Health Foundation.
What causes oral cancer?
The major risk factors for oral cancer include smoking, drinking alcohol on a regular basis and eating a poor diet. People who smoke and drink heavily are much more likely to develop the disease than people who do not smoke or drink on a regular basis; 75 percent of cases of oral cancer in Europe involve patients who smoke and drink.
Recently, diet has been linked to increased incidence of oral cancer; people whose diet is lacking in fruit and vegetables tend to be more likely to develop the condition.
Raising the profile
Unlike others forms of cancer, including breast cancer, cervical cancer and testicular cancer, oral cancer does not have a high media profile and consequently many people are unaware of the symptoms and signs they should be looking out for. The Mouth Cancer Action Month campaign is aiming to raise the media profile, inform members of the public about the disease and encourage people to attend screening clinics and regular dental check-ups. The recent news that Hollywood actor, Michael Douglas has been diagnosed with throat cancer may help to make people more aware of the disease.
Fighting oral cancer
In order to reduce the risk of developing oral cancer, experts recommend making lifestyle changes and visiting the dentist for regular routine check-ups. The statistics show that smoking and drinking can increase the chance of getting oral cancer considerably, as well as contributing to an array of other serious health conditions, so giving up smoking and cutting down on drinking will help to boost general health and reduce the risk of oral cancer. Likewise, swapping ready-meals, fast-food and sweet treats for healthier alternatives will also help to reduce the risk of developing oral cancer and a healthy diet has also been proven to make a huge difference to overall health. A healthy, balanced diet should include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, lean meat and poultry and wholegrain foods, including cereals, bread, pasta and rice.
Routine dental check-ups could save your life as your dentist will be able to identify early signs of oral cancer; this means you can be treated early. Early diagnosis can improve survival chances by up to 90 percent. Symptoms to look out for include sores which do not heal quickly, red or white patches in the mouth or throat and unusual swellings in the throat or mouth. Dentists recommend attending a check-up every six to twelve months.
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