For more than a decade Mouth Cancer Action Month has been an influential springboard in educating the public about mouth cancer. Under the message ‘if in doubt, get checked out’ the campaign has helped facilitate thousands of events and projects, and continues to act as a focal point for people to campaign together, raise awareness and take action.
In 2015, organisers of the campaign, the British Dental Health Foundation have seen unprecedented support from the dental profession and public alike and wish to extend a huge thank you to everyone who took part in the campaign this year.
Mouth Cancer Action Month became a terrific opportunity for oral health educators, health professionals, schools and workplaces, to increase their important work of delivering oral health education, especially in disadvantaged communities and regions of known poor oral health while delivering greater awareness of mouth cancer.
Although the campaign takes place throughout November, mouth cancer is something that deserves our attention all year round. That’s why the charity is once again asking for you to show your support for mouth cancer action in any way you can, moving into the New Year.
The amount of support for mouth cancer action from the dental profession has been overwhelming and has far extended beyond the November campaign dates. With almost twice as many pledges of support than in the previous year, the British Dental Health Foundation is thrilled to see that so many of you put mouth cancer awareness as a priority on your agenda.
But the industry has not stopped there; we have seen hundreds of events held throughout the month to help spread awareness even further.
A dental practice in Leicester held an astonishing 24 hour marathon mouth cancer examination event – just an example of how dedicated the supporters of Mouth Cancer Action Month are.
The campaign has reached thousands factory workers and manual labourers around the UK too. These are vital audiences for the charity, given that these groups could be at a higher risk of developing mouth cancer due to their working conditions and lifestyle habits. This year the campaign saw workers at the Mini plant in Cowley, Oxfordshire, being offered free mouth cancer examinations by the local community dental services; an event which was featured on the local BBC news programme.
The campaign has even reached the public is some of the furthest areas of the UK too. Pupils from Lochdar Primary School in South Uist in the Outer Hebrides donned their blue lips to show that the next generation is aware if the dangers of mouth cancer and are more educated regarding the lifestyle choices and factors that increase our risk.
Social media support of Mouth Cancer Action Month has really taken off in 2015 with thousands of people getting involved with the campaign and showing their support using #mouthcanceraction and #BlueLipSelfie, as well as following the campaign on Twitter and Facebook.
The Blue Lip Selfie campaign, created by Mouth Cancer Action Month sponsors Denplan, has seen thousands of people paint and wear their blue lips and to raise awareness of mouth cancer.
Some famous faces have even joined the blue lip movement with support from none other than national treasure Angela Rippon and Emmerdale actors Matthew Wolfenden and Amy Walsh.
Thank you to everyone who has supported the campaign on social media the response this year has been simply breath-taking.
‘The fight goes on’
Following this year’s launch at the House of Commons, including a keynote speech from Peter Baker, Campaign Director of HPV Action, there was some excellent news as the UK government’s vaccination advisory committees (JCVI) decided to extend HPV vaccinations to men aged 16-40 who have sex with men (MSM).
This move potentially protects thousands of people from the dangers of mouth cancer but does not go far enough. Real change will only happen when a truly universal gender neutral vaccination programme is introduced in the UK. This is an issue that the charity care passionately about and will continue to tackle in the political agenda.
The key decision on whether to vaccinate all adolescent boys is still too far away, with a decision due in 2017 at the earliest, even if that decision is positive the implementation may not happen until 2020. With every year that passes, 400,000 more boys are left unprotected against HPV-related diseases.
The issue that Mouth Cancer Action Month was reinforced during the campaign when new figures were released by Cancer Research UK on how many people were directly affected by mouth cancer.
In what is grim reading, mouth cancer cases have topped 7,300 per year in the UK for the first time ever.
The alarming findings show that around 20 people every day are being diagnosed with mouth cancer, equating to around one every 72 minutes – less time than it takes to play a game of rugby.
Mouth cancer is now the 10th most common cancer in men in the UK and 15th most common in women, overall mouth cancer is the 14th most common cancer in Britain but if current trends continue is on track to rapidly move up the list.
Mouth cancer in the UK has increased by around a third (34 per cent) in the last decade alone and by more than four-fifths (83 per cent) since the late 1970s.
The dramatic increase has been put down to changes in the prevalence of oral cancer risk factors such as alcohol consumption, tobacco use (smoking and smokeless) and human papilloma virus (HPV) infection, which can be transmitted through oral sex.
‘Mouth Cancer Action Month 2016′
The British Dental Health Foundation does not believe in standing still and plans are already underway for 2016 but in the meantime they are encouraging everyone not to wait another 12 months before taking action.
They are urging everyone to be ‘mouthaware’ and check for signs and symptoms as well as taking steps to reduce the risk of developing the disease.
Tobacco use, drinking alcohol to excess, poor diet and more recently the human papillomavirus (HPV), often transmitted via sexual practices, are all associated with an increased risk of developing mouth cancer.
Mouth Cancer Action Month is a vital platform for dentists to talk to patients, for patients to talk to their family and for family to talk to friends. Knowing the signs and symptoms is the only way collectively to catch the disease. Be on the lookout for ulcers which do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth.
Our advice to everyone is extremely simple – if in doubt, get checked out.