Richard Thomson, the Member of Parliament for Gordon, has shown his support for the Mouth Cancer Action Charter which was launched at an event at the Houses of Parliament last week. The Oral Health Foundation and Denplan invited Members of Parliament, dental and health professionals to sign the Charter and demonstrate their support for its policy recommendations.
The Mouth Cancer Charter has been created to coincide with November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month – the UK's biggest charity campaign by the Oral Health Foundation for mouth cancer awareness. The campaign calls for more people to be ‘mouthaware’ by being able to recognise and act on any unusual changes to the mouth.
Mouth cancer is now the 14th most common cancer in the UK and 9th most common amongst men and over the last year, almost 9,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease, twice as many as 20 years ago. Just under half (45%) of all mouth cancers are diagnosed in stage IV, when the cancer is at its most advanced stage.
Yet, there is a poor understanding of the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer, as well as the risk factors that cause mouth cancer including tobacco use, alcohol use, and HPV. Sadly, survival rates have barely improved over the last 30 years.
Richard Thomson, the Member of Parliament for Gordon commented:
“I was pleased to support the launch of the Mouth Cancer Charter. Early detection is vital so it’s important that people make themselves more aware of what the early signs and symptoms are to give themselves the best possible chance of recovery.
“With Mouth Cancer Action Month just finished, I hope more people will take the opportunity to become ‘mouthaware’ by being able to identify and take action on any changes they notice in their oral health.”
Denplan and The Oral Health Foundation are urging the Government to consider the mouth cancer policy interventions in the Charter to avoid more lives being lost to mouth cancer as possible cases go undetected.
The Mouth Cancer Action Charter highlights the following policy areas for change:
1. Conduct a government funded public health awareness campaign of the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer.
2. Improve access to routine dentistry to detect mouth cancers earlier and save lives.
3. Enable enhanced training of GPs to identify suspected mouth cancers and change the NICE guidelines so that more cases can be referred to secondary care.
4. Improve training programmes for healthcare staff to look for signs of mouth cancer.
5. Introduce free dental check-ups and treatment for mouth cancer patients to end the unfair financial burden placed on them.
6. Support the development of better technology to diagnose mouth cancers.
The Oral Health Foundation and Denplan are concerned that mouth cancer referrals have significantly fallen over the pandemic period and delays have occurred because of the dental backlog and access to NHS dentistry remaining difficult in certain areas.
Awareness of the major signs and symptoms of mouth cancer is very low. Recent research conducted by The Oral Health Foundation and Denplan shows that four-in-five UK adults have never been exposed to public health messaging around mouth cancer, leading to poor awareness of the early warning signs and risk factors .
The Charter proposes that GP’s, pharmacists, care home and nursing staff should all be given enhanced training or further information about how to look out for signs and symptoms of mouth cancer to further improve early detection. Spotting signs early can increase someone’s chances of survival from 50% to 90%.
Commenting on the policy recommendations proposed in the Charter, Dr Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation said:
“If these mouth cancer policy changes were put into action we could drive down case numbers and save the government a significant amount of money in oral cancer treatment costs. In England, the cost of head and neck cancer treatment was £309m in 2010-11  and since then case numbers of mouth cancer have grown by around 67%.”
In addition to parliamentarians, the Oral Health Foundation and Denplan are asking dental professionals and other healthcare professionals to show their support and sign the Charter at www.dentalhealth.org/mouth-cancer-action-charter.
More information on mouth cancer can be found at www.mouthcancer.org and by following the campaign on social media via #MouthCancerAction.