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Marking Mouth Cancer Awareness Month

To mark Mouth Cancer Awareness Month, BDA NI joined Cancer Focus NI in bringing professionals, patients and carers together again with the return of the annual "Head and Neck Cancer Conference" on 16 November in the Dunadry Hotel.

Ciaran Moore, Speciality Registrar in Restorative Dentistry at Queen's University School of Dentistry gave delegates a presentation titled Oral Health Advice After Treatment.

Dervilia Kernaghan, Director of Services at Cancer Focus NI, said: "We know the crisis of connection COVID-19 has caused in the last 18 months and none more so than on local cancer patients and their families. This event with the theme of 'Staying connected' brings together expert speakers to support those affected by a head and neck cancer diagnosis."

People smile at the camera for Mouth Cancer Month in Northern Ireland

(L-R) Ciaran Moore, Speciality Registrar in Restorative Dentistry at Queen's University, Tristen Kelso, BDA NI Director; Dervilla Kernoghan, Head of Services at Cancer Focus NI.

Cases of oral cancer in Northern Ireland are expected to almost double between 2015 and 2035. There has also been a worrying 12.2% reduction in diagnosis since the start of the pandemic.

Unfortunately, many people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed at a late stage, with approximately 100 local people dying annually. The conference highlighted the importance of early detection and why people need to be aware of the signs and symptoms.

Dr Gerry McKenna, consultant and oral health researcher, said, "finding cancer early makes it more treatable. We are asking the public to be mouth aware, watching out for any changes in the mouth such as mouth ulcers that don't heal after a few weeks, unexplained lumps or numbness on the lip or tongue, or red and white patches. If you do notice any changes in your mouth, make an appointment to get checked out by your dentist."

It is very concerning that 60% of all head and neck cancers in Northern Ireland are diagnosed at a late stage. That's something we and the wider dental community want to see significantly improved by engaging in awareness raising with our partners in Cancer Focus NI. We're also keen to see the references to oral health in the new cancer strategy implemented in full.

Resources to help you

Our oral cancer toolkit, developed in partnership with Cancer Research UK, helps dental health professionals identify and refer possible cases of oral cancer.

This includes a referral decision guide which illustrates the red flags which should prompt referral to secondary care via a suspected cancer pathway, a three-minute video demonstrating how to perform an examination, and a quiz to help boost your knowledge of oral cancer and contribute to your CPD.

Other resources to help further your knowledge include: