10/11/2011

Cancer Charity Urges 'Look Down In The Mouth'

People across NI are being encouraged to look 'down in the mouth' as the Ulster Cancer Foundation (UCF) uses Mouth Cancer Week to encourage people to be aware of the early signs of mouth cancer and to seek medical help if they have any concerns.

As the special weeklong focus opens this Sunday, it has been revealed that in Northern Ireland, approximately 175 people are diagnosed with mouth cancer every year, with more than one third dying from the disease.

Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention, UCF, said: "We're aiming to raise public awareness of risk factors and early warning signs of mouth cancer.

"It's alarming that about 70% of mouth cancers are detected at a late stage because people don't know the warning signs. This often results in lower chances of survival, however early detection transforms survival chances to more than 90%," he said.

Mouth cancer can appear in different forms, most often as a painless ulcer that doesn't heal.

Gerry McElwee continued: "It is important to examine your mouth on a regular basis.

"If you have an ulcer that hasn't healed after three weeks, or any unusual changes such as a red or white patch in your mouth, you should arrange an appointment with your dentist or GP," adding that UCF has trained 300 local dentists on the issue of mouth cancer and the importance of providing smoking cessation support to their patients.

"Regular dental check-ups allow the dentist to look for any early warning signs of mouth cancer," he added, noting that the main risk factors of mouth cancer are tobacco use and drinking alcohol and together these account for around 75% of mouth cancers.

In fact, people who both drink and use tobacco are up to 30 times more likely to develop the condition.

"As the majority of patients diagnosed with mouth cancer are smokers, our advice is to stop smoking as soon as possible.

"There is help available for anyone who wants to quit and smokers can quadruple their chances of success if they combine stop smoking support services with pharmacological therapies.

"UCF has provided almost 30 clinics supported by the Public Health Agency (Eastern Area) in the last year and has helped 65% of those attending to stop smoking within four weeks," he said.

(BMcC/GK)

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