Mouth cancer: the importance of public screening and awareness
World Cancer Day happened earlier this month. Organised by the World Health Organisation, it’s another public awareness campaign designed to put risk factors of cancer in the spotlight and encourage us all to live healthily.
Although, the press recently highlighted that mouth cancer rates in the UK are improving due to smoking and drinking among young people being at the lowest level on record. Mouth cancer is still one of the more prevalent cancers in the UK, with head and neck cancers being the fourth month common cancer for males and the 12th for females.
I was given the fantastic opportunity to take part in raising awareness of mouth cancer as part of last year’s Mouth Cancer Action Month.
As a dentist, I went to Evington Leisure Centre to educate the public about mouth cancer and encourage people to take part in the campaign and get screened. With Lucy Clay and her team from Leicester City Council’s Oral Health Promotion Service, we set-up the desk and decorated it with banners and leaflets. We were armed with goody bags, attracting all members of the leisure centre on their way to the gym or walking into or out of exercise classes.
I put on my gloves and mask and had a disposable mirror and examined members of the public, explaining the main risk factors for mouth cancer – smoking and alcohol and gave them a copy of this leaflet.
We screened over 50 people – the majority of them did not know much about oral cancer at all. They were amazed to discover new facts, and from our post-screening questionnaires, it showed that people had learnt something useful that they will use and share with people in their lives.
When they were leaving, we they received a goody bag as a memento, with more information on oral cancer and a scroll-out pen with detection tips which they could refer to.
Throughout the day’s screening, I found a few mouth ulcers and other conditions such as recurrent aphthous stomatitis, which some patients didn’t know about but knew they had occasional ulcers in the mouth! I gave them advice and advised them to see a dentist regularly.
Overall, the team and I were very happy with the work we did in helping out the community to raise awareness of oral cancer and hopefully save someone’s life.
It was rewarding to be part of a public health awareness campaign. I took time off work to volunteer for this because I felt this was an important issue that needs to be addressed by society. If the public can be more educated, the prevalence of mouth cancer can decrease through early detection.