New cases of mouth cancer in the UK have risen to a record high, according to the findings of a new report.
- New figures show there have been 8,722 new cases of mouth cancer in the UK last year.
- This is an increase of 58% compared to ten years ago and 97% compared to 20 years ago.
- Data released in a new report to coincide with November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month.
Figures collected by the Oral Health Foundation show that 8,722 people in the UK were diagnosed with the disease last year, increasing by 97% since 2000.
Mouth cancer cases in the UK have soared for the 11th year in a row and have more than doubled within the last generation.
The findings are part of the charity’s new State of Mouth Cancer UK Report 2020/21 and have been released to coincide with November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, believes with mouth cancer cases continuing to rise, more must be done to raise awareness of the disease.
Dr Carter says: “While many cancers are seeing a reduction in the number of people affected, mouth cancer is one of very few that is sadly going the other way. Established risk factors like smoking and excessive alcohol have been joined by emerging causes like the human papillomavirus (HPV). This has changed the profile of the disease quite considerably over recent years and mouth cancer can now affect anybody.
“The disease can have a devastating and lasting effect on a person’s life. It can change how somebody speaks, it makes eating and drinking more difficult, and often leads to changes to a person’s physical appearance. Because of this, it also takes a heavy toll on a person’s mental health too.
“One of the biggest challenges we face regarding mouth cancer is how little educational support it receives from government and public health bodies. As part of Mouth Cancer Action Month, we will be working with thousands of organisations to improve awareness of the disease so that more people are able to recognise the early warning signs.”
Statistics from governing health bodies across the UK show around two-in-three (67%) mouth cancers are recorded in men while three-in-four (78%) are in the over 55’s.
Mouth cancer is most likely to occur in the tongue, contributing to more than one-in-three (34%) cases. Mouth cancer can also appear in the tonsils, the roof and floor of the mouth, lips and gums.
The early warning signs of the disease include mouth ulcers that do not heal within three weeks, red or white patches in the mouth, or unusual lumps and swellings. Persistent hoarseness could also be a symptom.
Dr Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director at Denplan, part of Simplyhealth, speaks about the importance of knowing how to spot mouth cancer early and acting quickly if you notice anything out of the ordinary.
Dr Rutland says: “Self-checks and regular dental visits are extremely important for spotting mouth cancer in its initial stages, yet public awareness of mouth cancer actually remains very poor – around 3 out of 4 people said they did not know what the symptoms of mouth cancer are in the Oral Health Foundation’s latest research. Many mouth cancer cases are caught far too late. For a significant proportion of patients, a delay of three to six months in diagnosis and treatment will affect the likelihood of achieving long-term survival.
“Be ‘mouthaware’ and alert to any unusual changes to the mouth, head or neck. Mouth ulcers lasting more than three weeks, unexplained persistent lumps, red patches and white patches are all signs that should be checked by a dentist. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, don’t wait. Book an appointment with your dentist so that they can examine you.
“For Mouth Cancer Action Month this November, make sure you know the basics. Learn how to perform a quick self-check (visit mouthcancer.org), know what to look for and where mouth cancer occurs. By doing this, you give yourself the best possible chance of overcoming mouth cancer.”
Roy Templeton (59) from Beauly, Inverness, was diagnosed with mouth cancer of the tonsils. Now given the all clear, Roy says his experience of mouth cancer will never leave him.
Roy says: “Although I had heard of mouth cancer, I wasn’t aware how terribly common it was, and I didn’t know anybody personally who had had it. Any conversations I’d heard about people with mouth cancer had given me the impression it happens to much older people and especially those who heavily drank or smoke. I didn’t smoke and I was a moderate drinker, so the diagnosis really came as a shock.
“Going through cancer treatment had a big effect on me mentally. It crystallised in my own mind that life is quite precious. When it comes to opportunities arising in your life, either in work or your personal life, you want to grab every moment more than ever before.
“I was quite fortunate that I went to my GP early when I found something not right. If you have any inkling something is wrong, I would urge you to get it looked at. Getting checked out early could save your life.”
Spotting mouth cancer early is crucial for beating the disease. Early detection boosts the chances of survival from 50% to 90% while also dramatically improving a person’s quality of life.
Sadly, far too many mouth cancers are caught in the late stages of the disease. Latest annual reports show mouth cancer claims 2,702 lives a year, which on average is one person every hour.