Coming this November, Mouth Cancer Action Month will aim to promote how correct examinations can lead to a reduction in the amount of lives lost to mouth cancer by highlighting the significance of early detection and prevention. (This course, available for free on Healthcare CPD, provides a comprehensive overview on oral cancer)
Organised by the British Dental Health Foundation, the month will shine a light on dental professionals’ role in conducting proper mouth cancer checks.
BDHF Chief Executive, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, said: “One of the most important things we can do as dental professionals in the battle against mouth cancer is catching it early by recognising the signs of the disease.
“By catching mouth cancer early enough the chances of survival increase significantly to 50% from 90%, highlighting why early diagnosis is so important. I am calling on all dental professionals to brush up and ensure they know how to adequately carry out mouth cancer checks.
“During all mouth cancer examinations we need to be on the lookout for ulcers which have not healed within three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth and any unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth, head and neck area.”
At this initial stage, the BDHF have issued 7 simple steps for dental professionals to follow when carrying out a mouth cancer check:
- Head and Neck - Look at the face and neck. Do both sides look the same? Look for any lumps, bumps or swellings that are only on one side of the face.
- Neck - Feel and press along the sides and front of the patient’s neck. Can you feel any tenderness or lumps?
- Lips - Pull down the lower lip and look inside for any sores or change in colour. Next, use your thumb and forefinger to feel the lip for lumps, bumps or changes in texture. Repeat this on the upper lip.
- Cheek - Use your finger to pull out the cheek so that you can see inside. Look for red, white or dark patches. Put your index finger inside the cheek and your thumb on the outside. Gently squeeze and roll the cheek to check for any lumps, tenderness or ulcers. Repeat on the other cheek.
- Roof of the Mouth - Tilt back the patients head and open their mouth wide to see if there are any lumps or if there is any change in colour. Run your ﬁnger on the roof of the mouth to feel for any lumps.
- Tongue - Get your patient to stick out their tongue and look at the surface for any changes in colour or texture. Gently pull out the tongue holding it with a piece of gauze and look at one side first, then the other side. Look for any swelling, change in colour or ulcers. Examine the underside of the tongue by asking the patient to place the tip of their tongue on the roof of the mouth.
- Floor of the mouth - Look at the floor of the mouth for changes in colour that are different TH from normal. Gently press your finger along the floor of their mouth and underside of the tongue to feel for any lumps, swellings or ulcers.
Dr Carter added: “During Mouth Cancer Action Month, many dental practices offer patients or local groups free oral health checks with mouth cancer examinations. This is a great way to support your local community, promote awareness of the illness, and at the same time help develop the profile and goodwill of your practice.
“These events promote early detection, as well as education, not just to the patient themselves but through word of mouth it will also improve awareness among their family and friends. So whether it’s for the whole month, a week, a day, or one afternoon, your participation is crucial and can make a significant difference.”