Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Exeter Express and Echo supporting Mouth Cancer Awareness week

THIS week, a campaign is taking place to raise awareness of a disease with a higher proportion of deaths per number of cases than breast and cervical cancer — mouth cancer.

The lips, tongue, cheeks and throat can all be affected by mouth or oral cancer, which is diagnosed in more than 5,000 people and kills nearly 2,000 people each year in the UK.
As early detection and treatment improves survival chances, campaigns are run to encourage people to get checked out by a dentist or doctor if they spot any symptoms.

These include ulcers, lumps and red or white patches in the mouth which remain for at least two weeks.

Three quarters of cases are linked to smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. People with both habits are 30 times more likely to develop it.

Mouth cancer is twice as common in men as women but the gap is closing.

Although it is more likely to affect people over 40, an increasing number of young people are being diagnosed with it.

People with mouth cancer can suffer from facial deformity, loss of teeth, damage to the tongue and throat and consequently difficulty in talking and eating.

Nigel Gooding, 45, a self-employed management consultant from Ide, near Exeter, was diagnosed with mouth cancer in 2005.

Nigel, who is married with two children, aged eight and 11, was ill with flu-like symptoms and thought little of it until he found a lump in his neck. Weeks later, the lump had not disappeared so he went to see his doctor, who referred him to a specialist.

He did not smoke or drink excessively and it is unknown why he got the disease, but he went on to have surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

He said: "It was a complete shock to learn I had cancer. The treatment was brutal but it saved me and I'm here to tell the story."

During the course of Nigel's treatment, which finished later in 2005, muscles and nerve endings in his neck were severed, and he still feels pain there sometimes.

He couldn't speak and had to be fed through a nasal tube but is now more or less back to normal, though he still has to eat dry foods like bread with a large quantity of water.

He said: "I have less mobility in my shoulder and I have a lazy lip and can't smile properly on that side."

But he does not consider himself less able now and he feels lucky.

"I'd encourage people to book an appointment and get checked out," he said. "The sooner you can get diagnosed and treated properly your chances of beating this dreadful illness are a lot better and you can get on with your life."

Andrew McLennan, consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeon at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, said in Nigel's case, the cancer was caught reasonably early.

He said: "Having something diagnosed earlier makes it a lot easier to treat and there are more options."

His team sees more than 100 referrals and performs surgery on around 30 patients with mouth cancer every year.

Mouth Cancer Awareness Week, organised by the Mouth Cancer Foundation, runs this week, which also falls within the British Dental Health Foundation's Mouth Cancer Action Month.

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