More than 8,300 people in the UK are diagnosed with oral cancer each year and a significant portion of these are in Cheshire & Merseyside.
Head and neck cancer incidence and mortality rates are significantly higher in Chesire and Merseyside and continue to increase at a faster rate than the rest of England. More specifically, oral cancer rates have increased by over a third in the last 10 years. November is mouth cancer action month and dentists in Merseyside, Chesire and Greater Manchester are taking steps to decrease the incidence of oral cancer, improve survival rates and reduce the morbidity of treatment.
If dentists and doctors can detect oral cancers early on there is roughly a 90 per cent survival rate compared to the 50 per cent survival rate for later diagnosis. Cancer research campaign to raise awareness of the issues and provide resources for dental professionals to use. Dentists realise that their teams have a crucial role to play in ensuring mouth cancers are spotted early and patients are informed about the risks at the first instance.
The dental teams are at the forefront in providing oral care for local communities and as there is an increasing incidence of oral cavity cancers in the North West of England dentists and practises are playing a significant role in the prevention and early detection of mouth cancers and new local guides for oral cancer care in these areas have been put in place by the NHS to help. You can take a look at the full cancer guide for Cheshire and Merseyside here.
Local guides help dentists with the referral process and give information provided on patient information leaflets including how to encourage people to attend their appointments without causing extreme stress.
Dentists in Liverpool, Cheshire and Greater Manchester dentists can initiate referrals using the urgent cancer form and draw lesions located on intra and extra oral mouth maps on their referral system, and all 2ww referrals will be sent to the patient’s GP using the dental practices DocMan integration.
The aim of the local cancer guide is to improve the survival rates in Cheshire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester by raising awareness of the symptoms and risk factors associated with oral cancer, ensuring good practice when making an appropriate urgent referral, providing guidance on how to engage when talking about oral cancer with patients as well as highlighting the concept of ‘Making Every Contact Count’ in relation to the risk factors, principles and practice of brief intervention which includes signposts to quitting smoking, alcohol and substance misuse and the support services offered.
If your dentist notices any signs of mouth cancer you will be referred to by your GP. Most patients with referrals may not have cancer and are showing symptoms of a more minor condition which could get better on its own or with the use of antibiotics. In England, If your GP does refer you to a specialist and it is a matter of urgency you should be seen within two weeks. The guidelines in England, Wales and Northern Ireland advise you GP to consider an urgent referral if you have symptoms such as mouth ulcers that remain after 3 weeks or an unexplained lump in the neck that won’t go away.
If you visit your GP first they too can refer you to a dentist to check for oral cancer if you have a lump on the lip or in the mouth that won’t go away or persistent red and white patched in your mouth that won’t go away and are not considered to be oral thrush. Your dentist will also refer you to a cancer specialist should they need to.
Please contact Hunts Cross health centre if you have any concerns or wish to speak to one of our friendly specialist staff.