On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted on Thursday, December 8th, 2016

With Mouth Cancer Awareness Day having only recently passed by, it is important to take a moment to remember how many people can be affected by this disease.

Looking at the statistics on the NHS choices website:

In the UK just over 6,767 new cases of mouth cancer were diagnosed in 2011.

Most cases of mouth cancer first develop in older adults who are between 50 – 74 years of age.

Mouth cancer can occur in younger adults but it is thought that HPV infection may be responsible for the majority of cases that occur in younger people.

Mouth cancer is more common in men than in women. This is thought to be due to the fact that on average men drink more alcohol than women.”

I recently read on the British Dental Health Foundation’s website recently that “more than 6,700 people were diagnosed with mouth cancer last year. The disease has grown by a third in the last decade – and remains one of very few cancers which are predicted to increase further in the coming years – that’s why Mouth Cancer Action is so important/ Mouth cancer takes the lives of more than 2,000 people each year in the UK, which is more than testicular and cervical cancer combined. Mouth cancer also takes more lives a year than road traffic accidents.”

We need to firstly recognise the different signs and symptoms of mouth cancer. Firstly, it is prominent to note that a tumour can develop on the surface of the tongue, mouth, lips or gums. Symptoms of mouth cancer can include red or white patches in the lining of your mouth or tongue, ulcers, or simply a lump.

Now that we know the symptoms that can occur in oral cancer, we should also take a moment to also consider that misdiagnosis and delays in the treatment of oral cancer or errors during surgery can result in detrimental consequences for the patient. This can involve lengthened recovery periods and exacerbation of the cancer itself.
It is important for every medical practitioner to act under a reasonable standard of care towards their patients. However simple tests that a medical professional should consider could result in medical negligence. These can include:

  • Failure to treat oral cancer
  • A delay in carrying out a biopsy
  • A delay in treatment by not carrying out an x-ray and CT scan or ultrasound scan
  • Failure in providing the correct and appropriate surgery
  • A failure to carry out a simple blood test
  • A misdiagnosis of the symptoms

It should also be noted that the failure to diagnose can lie on the shoulders of a GP where their failure lies in referring the patient to hospital when required.

Imagine the number of deaths that could have been prevented if the cancer was caught early enough? It is therefore vital that dentists are alert to the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer and make appropriate referrals if anything suspicious is identified to ensure the best prognosis for their patients.

If either you or a loved one has been affected by mouth cancer or failure by a health professional has exacerbated either your of a family member’s condition, then please do get in touch with us and we may be able to assist.

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