Mouth cancer awareness is “alarming”, charity says

The lack of public awareness around the symptoms of mouth cancer is “truly alarming”, medics have said amid warnings that the disease is on the up.

In a recent survey by the British Dental Health Foundation, almost three quarters of Londoners failed to pick out one warning sign of the illness.

Tobacco use is the main cause of mouth cancer and places like Tower Hamlets, which have a high ethnic mix, have higher rates of smokers.

Around 60 per cent of all Bangladeshi men in the borough smoke and half of women chew tobacco in Paan, which is used as a digestive aid.

Across the country as a whole the smoking rate is just over 20 per cent.

Despite rates of mouth cancer almost doubling in the last decade, knowledge about it is still low.

Chief executive of the dental charity, Dr Nigel Carter, said: “The lack of awareness towards a disease which has increased by nearly 50 per cent in the last ten years is truly alarming.

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“Our message to everyone is, if in doubt, get checked out.”

Symptoms include ulcers which do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth and unusual lumps or swelling.

Early diagnosis makes a “huge difference” to survival chances, the doctor added.

Currently, more than two thirds of mouth cancer patients are diagnosed late and this reduces their chances of survival by half.

The charity questioned 800 people for the survey which was carried out to coincide with Mouth Cancer Action Month next month, starting tomorrow.