Men are almost twice as likely to die from mouth cancer and statistics consistently show they are less likely to consult with a doctor than their female counterparts. But with rates of incidence and mortality rising at an incredible rate, men can no longer afford to ignore the increasing threat of a killer disease.
Mouth cancer cases in the UK have almost doubled in the last decade, rising to 6,000 every year with almost 4,000 of those coming from men and although there are some clear early warning signs many postpone seeking professional advice, leaving fatality rates of the disease at 50 per cent.
This is supported by data from the Office of National Statistics, which reveals that women are twice as likely to see their GP as men, visiting the doctors an average of six times a year compared to just three for men. Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, puts this failing down to a lack of general cancer health knowledge in men and warns that ignoring the issue can lead to severe problems in future.
Dr Carter said: “For almost all types of cancer, men will die more often than women. There’s no biological reason that this should be the case so the reason must be purely down to the timing of diagnosis. Unfortunately, when men do go to their GP their condition may be at a far more advanced stage and therefore much more difficult to treat.
“By ignoring or dismissing the early and minor symptoms the disease will become rapidly advanced so that when they do seek help it makes it so much harder for treatment to be successful. The message is simple… ‘If in doubt, get checked out.’”
Throughout November, leading oral health charity the British Dental Health Foundation, is running Mouth Cancer Action Month and hoping to improve rates of ‘early detection’, especially in men. One in two people who contract mouth cancer will die without early diagnosis, which can improve the five year survival rate to 90 per cent.
However, while the treatment of many cancers is resulting in an improvement of survival rates, the same cannot be said for mouth cancer, of which the proportion that dies has remained fairly constant over the last ten years.
Dr Carter added: “Regrettably, most men will only resort to seeing their GP because their partner has ‘told’ them to – this must change, as must the education of health issues to all men. The first stage in this process is being able to identify the risks factors. Smoking, drinking alcohol to excess, poor diet and the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), transmitted via oral sex, are all risk groups of the disease. The good news is that these are environmental and lifestyle choices, which can be avoided and altered.”
Early detection is critical to the survival of mouth cancer sufferers. Learn and recognise the warning signs, which include ulcers which do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth, and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth.