cancer cells attackingPharmacists are being urged to be aware of patients coming to them with potential signs and symptoms of mouth cancer after it emerged that the public are very likely to turn to them, rather than their dentist or doctor, if they have symptoms related to mouth cancer.

New research shows that one in 10 people turn to their pharmacist for advice if they have a mouth ulcer that does not heal within a couple of weeks, which could be an early sign of mouth cancer.

The research was carried out as part of November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month, organised by charity the Oral Health Foundation.

As a result, the charity is calling on pharmacists to be aware of the major signs and symptoms of mouth cancer so that they can help direct patients to their dentist or doctor if they are in need of help or further advice.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said: “The major symptom for which the public said they would turn to their pharmacist for advice on was a mouth ulcer which did not heal within a couple of weeks. Rather than advising a topical ulcer remedy, which could just mask the symptoms, it is important that pharmacy staff recognise that this could potentially be a sign of mouth cancer. Before advising a topical remedy, it is essential to ask how long the ulcer has been present for. 

“The other major signs of mouth cancer that pharmacists need to be aware of are red or white patches within a person’s mouth and any unusual lumps or bumps in their head or neck areas. If a patient does come to you with any of these symptoms, then they should be referred straight away to their dentist or doctor to get it checked out.

“By offering quick and accurate advice a pharmacist can play a key role in potentially saving somebody’s life. Early diagnosis transforms a person’s chances of beating the disease from 50% to 90% so it is crucial that a pharmacist knows what to be on the lookout for. If a patient comes to you with any of the warning signs of mouth cancer it is vitally important that you refer them to their dentist or doctor straight away, it could save their life.”

Mouth Cancer Action Month runs throughout November and is sponsored by Denplan. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer, in order to get more cases caught early enough to make a difference to the chances of survival.

In the UK, mouth cancer cases have increased by 39% in the past decade alone and by 92% since the 1970s. It is one of a very small number of cancers that are on the increase and therefore something we all need to be very aware of.

Unfortunately, survival rates have not improved in the past 20 years, which is why it is vitally important that everyone is more Mouthaware. Mouth cancer can affect anyone so everybody needs to be able to recognise and act on the early warning signs in order to improve early diagnosis and help save lives which otherwise could be lost to this disease.

For more information on Mouth Cancer Action Month 2016 visit www.mouthcancer.org.