31 Aug

Patients urged to seek urgent advice if they notice symptoms linked to oral cancer

Dentists are urging patients to seek advice if they notice symptoms, which could be linked to oral cancer. 

Recently, health experts raised concerns about missed oral cancer cases due to a shortage of routine dental appointments. A recent study by the BBC revealed that around 90% of practices are not taking on new adult NHS patients, with many people struggling to get NHS dental appointments. As dentists conduct oral cancer checks routinely during regular examinations, there are fears that thousands of cases could be missed. 

Rates of oral cancer have doubled in the last ten years and increased by almost 70% in the last 20 years, according to Cancer Research UK. In 2020, more than 2,700 people died from oral cancer. 

Early diagnosis is key when treating oral cancer. If symptoms are identified early, the chances of successful treatment increase by up to 90 percent. 

One of the main reasons why oral cancer survival rates have stalled in comparison to other types of cancer is that people are unaware of the risk factors and warning signs. Symptoms are often spotted by dentists or other healthcare professionals during routine dental check-ups or tests that are carried out for other reasons. 

The symptoms of oral cancer include lumps or swelling in the mouth or throat, difficulty swallowing, red or white patches and slow-healing ulcers and sores. Additional signs may include a sore throat and persistent hoarseness and unexplained pain or bleeding. The main risk factors are smoking, drinking excessively, a poor diet and exposure to the HPV (human papilloma virus).

As surveys suggest that people are finding it more difficult to see a dentist, health experts and charities are encouraging patients to check their mouth frequently and seek assistance if they do notice any changes or abnormal symptoms. Patients can contact their dentist, their GP or NHS 111.