More than 130 people from a variety of different organisations were in attendance and heard from a range of speakers reinforcing the need for greater recognition of mouth cancer and its signs and symptoms.
Sir Paul Beresford MP, the event’s parliamentary sponsor, brought the room to order and used his introductory speech to talk about the “vast improvements in prevention” in recent times in combatting mouth cancer risk factors like smoking and alcohol. Sir Paul also highlighted the success of the gender equality campaign with the introduction of the HPV vaccination for boys and the importance ensuring high rates of inoculation across all genders.
The Oral Health Foundation’s Chief Executive Dr Nigel Carter OBE spoke about the devastating rise of mouth cancer in the United Kingdom.
Dr Carter said: “The sad fact is that the number of mouth cancer cases continues to increase year on year. When we took on this campaign nearly two decades ago, we were looking at just over 3,000 cases each year. In the last year or so, we have had over 8,300 recognised cases of mouth cancer. That is a huge increase, and it is one of the few cancers where the number of cases has started to increase.
“We want everyone to be more mouthaware during this year’s campaign. This means being able to identify the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer, understand what is more likely to put us at greater risk, and importantly, know where to go if you spot anything out of the ordinary.
“Early diagnosis saves lives so during November, please help us get across the message ‘if in doubt, get checked out’.”
Dr Catherine Rutland, Head Dental Officer at Simplyhealth, followed by highlighting the importance of nationwide awareness and how each and every one of us can get to grips with the disease.
Dr Rutland said: “We are proud that this is our nineteenth year working with the Oral Health Foundation and our member dentists to bring attention to mouth cancer. There’s been massive progress made on the awareness front in the last couple of years, although mouth cancer incidences continue to rise.
“It’s so important that everyone in this room and so many people outside of these walls are spreading this message out there. The Blue Lip Selfie campaign we are running with the Oral Health Foundation is a really positive way to get involved with the campaign this year. Get hold of some blue lips, wear some blue lipstick, post your blue lip selfies and use the #BlueLipSelfie to raise awareness of mouth cancer.
“The research we have shows that people do want to be aware of mouth cancer. For patients who aren’t regularly attending their dentist for check-ups, during the month of November we have been encouraging our member dentists to perform free dental and mouth cancer checks. We really want to encourage people to take looking after their oral health seriously.”
Karen Liesching Schroder, who is a mouth cancer survivor, moved the entire room with her incredibly powerful story and fight with mouth cancer.
Karen said: “I’ve always thought of myself as a healthy person. I’ve never smoked, don’t drink much and I am a runner. I run several times a week and have taken part in a variety of running events every year for the last ten years. So, to get a diagnosis of tongue cancer at age 43 originally hit me like a ton of bricks.
“It hasn’t been easy since surgery and there have been lots of blips. There are long-term effects after radiotherapy, and I do have problems swallowing and struggle with harder foods. However, I have found solace in speaking to others in a similar situation to me through the Oral Health Foundation and the Mouth Cancer Foundation, as well as Mouth Cancer Action. I have started helping and supporting others who were new to the journey.
“People are becoming more aware which is fantastic. I’m in touch with people from England, Wales, America and Greece. I shall continue to spread awareness during Mouth Cancer Action Month and throughout the rest of the year. If I can help someone or prevent someone from going through this because they got checked out instead of ignoring the symptoms, then I feel I will have done some good.”
Dr Philip Lewis of the Mouth Cancer Foundation spoke of the ways we can continue the fight into the next decade.
Dr Lewis said: “Public awareness programs, self-examination and well-informed decisions are all pivotal to this struggle. Everyone needs to take an interest, and everyone needs to spread the word. Together we will make a difference.”
The parliamentary event brought together a number of mouth cancer charities. The reception had support from Noman is an Island, Boundaries for Life, The Swallows, Oracle Trust, Head and Neck Cancer Foundation, HPV Action and The Throat Cancer Foundation.
To get involved with Mouth Cancer Action Month 2019, click here.