Taking cancer message to the streets

Two members of the BDA Northern Ireland’s Dental Practice Committee took to the streets recently to raise awareness of oral cancer and the vital role dentists play in detection.

Eamonn Toner and Derek Manson volunteered their time to carry out mouth checks on shoppers at the Park Centre, West Belfast, as part of the association’s #mouthcheckni initiative. West Belfast is the most deprived constituency in Northern Ireland, where the average number of cases per year of lip oral cavity and pharynx cancers are higher than the Northern Ireland average.

About 200 people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with mouth cancer each year, often at a late stage, with about a third of those diagnosed dying from the disease. Shockingly, the incidence of oral cancers looks set to double by 2035.

Peter Crooks, chair of the BDA Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee, said: “Through our oral health check initiative, a partnership between Cancer Focus NI, BDA and the Health and Social Care Board, we hope to educate the public on the risk factors, and signs and symptoms of oral cancer, and ultimately achieve better health outcomes.”

Colette Rogers, Strategic Lead for Tobacco Control at the Public Health Agency (PHA), said that dental professionals need to educate their patients that symptoms can manifest in several ways.

She said: “It’s important that people know what to look out for and take time to check for changes in the mouth. This habit of carrying out a ‘mouth check’, similar to the ‘breast check’ advised for women, could save lives.

“In addition to early detection, it is of paramount importance to know what you can do to reduce your risk of developing mouth cancer. We know that tobacco use is the biggest risk factor for developing mouth cancer and while it may be difficult to quit, there is help available. In Northern Ireland there are over 650 free PHA-funded stop smoking specialist services available in a variety of settings.

For more information and useful tips to stop smoking, visit the PHA’s ‘Want 2Stop’ website at www.want2stop.info

Published: 21 December, 2017 at 09:36