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Stoptober 2022: Supporting patients to quit smoking

Oral (oral cavity and oropharyngeal) cancers are some of the most preventable types of cancer, and over 90% of all oral cancer cases could be avoided.

Smoking is one of the lead drivers for oral cancers, which claim more lives each year than car accidents.

Dentists and their teams play a vital role in ensuring oral cancers are detected early and can help to save people's lives and yet, oral cancers continue to rise across the four UK countries. Shockingly, the incidence of oral cancers look set to double by 2035.

We know that head and neck cancers in England are more common in people living in the most deprived areas.

Around 250 people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with oral cancer each year, often at a late stage, with about a third of those diagnosed dying from the disease.

In Scotland, we have seen an increase in the incidence of oral and oropharyngeal cancers in the last 30 years with rates significantly higher in Scotland than the UK average. It remains unclear how the suspension of routine care during the pandemic may have impacted these rates.

In Wales, the number of new diagnoses of mouth cancer continues to rise. In 2018, the spend on cancer accounted for nearly 7% of all NHS expenditure.

Public Health England's Stoptober campaign aims to support people to quit smoking, and dentists can take part by encouraging their patients to do so.

The NICE guidelines on stop smoking interventions and services were updated in August 2022. Some of the new recommendations for health and social care professionals to start the conversation with patients who wish to stop smoking include:

  • Discuss how they can stop (NCSCT programmes explain how to do this)
  • Provide stop-smoking interventions and advice
  • If you are unable to provide stop-smoking interventions, refer them to local stop-smoking support if available
  • If they opt out of a referral to stop-smoking support, refer them to a professional who can offer pharmacotherapy and very brief advice
  • We recently welcomed the aspirations set out in the Independent review into smokefree 2030 policies to reduce tobacco use, but stress that the Government must take a guarded approach to the promotion of vaping as an alternative, given current gaps in the science.

Our oral cancer toolkit is also available to dental teams alongside our cancer recognition CPD which provides advice on how to complete an examination of the mouth, oropharynx, and neck for reportable lesions.