A top cancer surgeon is calling on people with mouth ulcers and neck lumps to get their symptoms checked. This follows fears from dentists that mouth cancer cases may have gone undetected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the fact that a new international study suggests patients undergoing surgery for head and neck cancers are at no extra risk when it comes to COVID-19 transmission.
Professor Richard Shaw is a consultant and head and neck cancer surgeon at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
He is calling on the public to act fast if they notice any symptoms. These include neck lumps, mouth ulcers, mouth or throat lumps, difficulty swallowing and a hoarse voice.
‘We know that it can be scary to come to a hospital or any healthcare setting at the moment. People are putting off that trip to the GP and waiting that bit longer to see if their symptoms go away,’ he said.
‘The findings of this study are really important because we can now assure people who need head and neck cancer surgery that it is safe, even during the pandemic.’
He added: ‘Time is of the essence with head and neck cancer. The sooner it is diagnosed the sooner we can treat it – and if we catch it early then the curative surgery required is much less invasive.
‘My message to anyone concerned about symptoms is to get them looked at by a health professional without delay. It could make all the difference.’
Drop in mouth cancer referrals
Last year, data from the Oral Health Foundation revealed oral cancer referrals have dropped 33% since the pandemic hit.
The number of patients referred for possible mouth cancer fell dramatically from the 2,257 in the six months before March 2020. In the six months after, the figure dropped to just 1,506.
Six out of the seven NHS trusts analysed witnessed a drop in referrals during this same period.