Diagnosis of mouth cancer down during Covid-19 pandemic

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  Posted by: The Probe      7th May 2020

The Mouth Cancer Foundation is concerned that, because of the current closure of dental practices, patients are not receiving regular routine examinations for early signs of mouth cancer. It seems likely that even when general dental practices re-open it may be a considerable time before a full service becomes widely available. Sadly, many cases of all head and neck cancers could be going undetected.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, diagnoses of all types of cancer have dramatically diminished. There are a number of reasons for this, including the reluctance of the public to visit clinical settings for fear of exposing themselves to the virus. Doctors and hospitals are assuring the public that these risks have now been minimised; however, it may still be a while before people feel completely comfortable in making appointments.

“The number of patients being diagnosed with mouth cancer has dramatically reduced in recent weeks due to coronavirus,” said Dentist and Mouth Cancer Foundation President, Dr Philip Lewis. “Prior to the pandemic the incidents of newly diagnosed mouth cancers was on the rise, so this is an alarming situation. Dental Practices are largely closed so it is more important than ever that people check themselves for mouth caner in the same way they would carry out routine examinations for other types of cancer.”

The Mouth Cancer Foundation has two important messages. Firstly, people should examine themselves regularly at home, just as they do for early signs of other cancers. Conditions to look for include:

  • Swellings in the mouth, face or neck
  • Red or white patches on the skin of the mouth, the tongue or the palate
  • Ulcers that do not heal in a maximum of 3 weeks
  • Changes in texture of the lips or inside the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Numbness of the tongue or lips
  • A feeling of something stuck in the throat
  • Hoarseness of the throat lasting 6 weeks or longer

The Mouth Cancer Foundation publishes a free self-examination leaflet which is available for download at: www.mouthcancerfoundation.org/get-involved/merchandise. This leaflet explains exactly what to look for and how.

The foundation’s second message is: If a patient of yours is concerned that any problems in their mouth may be due to early mouth cancer, they should contact the dental practice immediately, as even during closure we can still arrange referral to a specialist if necessary and still have access to fast-track referrals. If the patient is not registered with a dentist, they should contact their doctor.


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