09:45AM, Friday 24 May 2013
National Smile month launched on Monday and to mark it, oral consultant Mahesh Kumar is encouraging GPs to look more in patients’ mouths to try and reduce an increase of mouth cancer.
Mr Kumar, consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeon at Spire Thames Valley Hospital and Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Mouth cancer is one of the cancers on the increase in the UK and we are seeing a steady increase in flow of patients with mouth cancer.
"Many patients are not aware of the signs, symptoms and causes of oral cancer. The community are unaware of the impact of certain behaviours which can be directly causing their symptoms”.
He said that, in addition to the risk factors of smoking and chewing tobacco, oral cancer occurs more frequently in the Indian Subcontinent where it is common practice to chew betel nut and tobacco in paan and gutka.
He said: "Khat chewing in the Somali community is also common. In fact, mouth cancer is the most common malignancy in India.”
Human papilloma virus (HPV) also increases the incidence of mouth cancer. Recent studies showed that those infected with HPV were many times more likely to develop oral or throat cancers.
Mr Kumar said: “Recently in my own practice, I have noticed younger patients with oral and throat cancers who are then found to be HPV positive. Encouragingly these patients appear to respond better to conventional treatment with improved survival."
He added studies have acknowledge that increased smoking and alcohol intake individually cause a three times greater risk of developing mouth cancer.
With these growing causes of mouth cancer, Mr Mahesh Kumar is actively encouraging GPs to look more into patients’ mouths.
He said: “Don't forget anyone with an ulcer, red or white patch that has been persisting for more than three weeks or pain or swelling in the mouth that cannot be attributed to a simple dental cause”.
Anyone with ongoing throat symptoms, persistent change in voice, swallowing difficulties or neck lumps should seek urgent attention via their dentist or GP.