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Wednesday 21st August 2019

Half of people do not act on mouth cancer signs

6th November 2012

A survey has found under half of respondents would find medical help if they had a mouth ulcer which did not heal.


The survey, carried out by the British Dental Foundation, showed many people would wait longer than recommended to visit a doctor or dentist.

The data revealed that around a third (37%) would ask for help after one to two months, 7% would wait longer than three months and just 49% would seek help in the recommended time of four weeks or less.

A mouth ulcer that does not heal within three weeks or an unusual lump or patch in the mouth can be a symptom of mouth cancer.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said: "It is of great concern that only half of people know how long they should wait before seeking medical advice over a mouth ulcer."

"Early detection is absolutely crucial in transforming survival rates, and those leaving a mouth ulcer longer than three weeks are potentially risking a late diagnosis, something that reduces five year survival rates to as low as 50%. With the benefit of early diagnosis, survival rates can increase to up to 90%."

The survey did find that nearly three in four people (71%) would ask for medical help in four weeks if they found an unusual lump or swelling.

Red or white patches in the mouth would be enough of a concern to prompt 69% of respondents to look for help within a month. 

Dr Carter added: "Through tobacco use, drinking alcohol to excess, a poor diet and exposure to the human papilloma virus (HPV), often transmitted via oral sex, individuals place themselves at risk from a disease that kills more people than cervical and testicular cancer combined."

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