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Stoptober: Smoking and Mouth cancer

  • The importance of being aware of the risks of mouth cancer.

    By Samantha Swaby

Stoptober  began  on 1 October 2014, an NHS Campaign which challenges smokers to quit smoking for 28 days.   With Cancer Research UK reporting that smoking and consuming too much alcohol are two of the main causes of mouth cancer. I thought that this Stoptober is a good time to raise awareness of the link between smoking and mouth cancer.

Mouth cancer

Mouth cancer is a cancer that can develop in any part of the mouth, including the tongue, the gums and cheek and lips. The British Dental Health Foundation reports that in the last year 6,767 patients have been diagnosed with mouth cancer in the UK which is an increase of more than a third compared to a decade ago. Symptoms of mouth cancer can include:

– White or red patches anywhere in your mouth
– A lump on the lip, tongue or in the mouth or throat.
– Weight loss
– Unusual bleeding
– Problems digesting

It is important that when a patient attends their dentist for a dental check up, the dentist carries out a thorough mouth examination. If a dentist detects something unusual it is vital that an early referral is made. Likewise patients should report anything unusual to their dentist and ensure they attend regular check ups.

What causes mouth cancer

The exact cause of mouth cancer is unknown and some people can develop mouth cancer for an unknown reason. However, the risk factors for developing mouth cancer can include:

– Smoking and the chewing of tobacco
– Consuming alcohol
– Infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV)

In order to prevent the risk of mouth cancer, it is recommended that people visit their dentist regularly and cut down on smoking and drinking alcohol. Those looking to quit smoking can participate in the Stoptober challenge. It is thought that those who quit smoking for 28 days are less likely to start smoking again and this should then in turn help to reduce the risk of mouth cancer caused by smoking.

Treatment for mouth cancer

If mouth cancer is detected early, the diagnosis is generally good. However, if the cancer has spread the prognosis may be poor. The types of treatment that may be provided to patients with mouth cancer can include:

– Radiotherapy
– Chemotherapy
– Surgery

Our experience

It is important that a person visits their dentist regularly and reports any unusual changes in their mouth to their dentist, particularly if they are a smoker. The Dental Negligence Team deal with cases where a dentist has failed to refer a patient for further investigations and this has led to a delayed diagnosis and delayed treatment for mouth cancer. In some cases, the dentist has failed to detect the symptoms and this has had a significant impact on a person’s treatment and prognosis.

As well as therefore raising awareness to patients of the risks of smoking and developing mouth cancer, we also hope to raise awareness among dentists of the importance of being alert to symptoms of mouth cancer, particularly in patients who are or have been smokers, and the importance of making early referrals for further investigation and treatment.

If you feel you have suffered from a delayed diagnosis of mouth cancer or delayed treatment. Please contact the Dental Negligence Team who will be happy to assist you and advise whether you may have a claim.

Want to know more?

Call 0800 051 8069

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