Source: www.mirror.co.uk
Author: Alan Weston & Sam Truelove

A dentist has warned that thousands of Brits may be unknowingly living with mouth cancer after a “healthy” dad-of-seven died from the disease.

Alan Birch, 37, lived a healthy, active lifestyle and did not drink or smoke but died from an aggressive form of mouth cancer in April. The self-employed plasterer, from Wirral in Merseyside, was diagnosed with mouth cancer in 2018, and had to have 90 per cent of his tongue removed, Liverpool Echo reports.

Despite Alan undergoing both radiotherapy and chemotherapy, the cancer returned each time and specialists told his devastated family there was nothing more they could do for him.

Alan and his partner of 12 years, Debbie McDonough, decided to get married in February, but he tragically died a few weeks later in April.

With the latest figures from the British Dental Association showing that 19 million treatments have been missed due to lockdown, dentists are now concerned about the number of cases of mouth cancer that will have potentially gone undiagnosed this year as a result.

Mouth cancer takes more lives than cervical cancer and testicular cancer combined, with 8,722 new cases reported in the UK last year. This is a 58 per cent increase compared to a decade ago and a 97 per cent rise since 2000.

Debbie said: “I would urge people to always keep on top of their dentist appointments as they are the ones who notice the warning signs for mouth and tongue cancer.

“Always be careful of ulcers especially if you have them longer than two weeks, and never think you are wasting an appointment if you are worried about anything. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

New research revealed that 52 per cent of people living in the North-West are unaware their dentist will screen them for mouth cancer during a routine check-up.

Dr Catherine Tannahill, dentist and director of clinical dentistry at Portman Dental Care, which carried out the research, said: “As dentists we see first-hand the impact this disease can have, and that’s why we want to ensure people are aware of what the signs and symptoms are, what to do if they spot an issue and what steps they can take to reduce the risk of developing mouth cancer.

“This is now more important than ever before, as thousands of diagnoses may have potentially been missed this year due to dental practices having to close in initial lockdown, and the subsequent backlog of appointments since.

“While this may sound alarming, early diagnosis of mouth cancer leads to a 90 per cent survival rate, which is why it is imperative that people continue visiting their dentist for regular check-ups.

“Dentists play a pivotal role in the detection of mouth cancer, as they will always check for the classic signs of the disease during any routine appointment. As a dental professional, it was concerning to see through our research how many people were unaware of this.”

According to Dr Tannahill, the most common signs of mouth cancer are mouth ulcers that do not heal in three weeks, unusual lumps or swelling in the mouth, head or neck, and red and white patches within the mouth.

Mouth cancer can appear in the tonsils, the roof or floor of the mouth and in the tongue, and people should regularly check all areas of their mouth.

“There are also a few simple lifestyle changes that people can make that can help reduce the risk of developing mouth cancer,” Dr Tannahill added.

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