A SHEFFIELD expert is calling for better awareness of oral cancer so more sufferers are detected sooner and receive life saving treatment. As many as 4,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed nationally each year – including around 100 patients seen at the Charles Clifford Dental Hospital in Sheffield.
Traditionally most patients affected are male, over 50, and have drunk alcohol and smoked for up to 20 years.
But doctors are now seeing younger men and women at around the age of 40 who do not drink or smoke. New research suggests a possible link to the sexually transmitted Human Papillomavirus.
It is thought the HPV virus, which is known to cause cervical cancer, could also increase the chances of developing mouth cancer.
Afshin Yousefpour, consultant maxillofacial surgeon at the Charles Clifford Dental Hospital, said: “There are more and more young people under 40 with no specific known risk factors. Some have the HPV virus. Maybe there is a relationship.”
He stressed that for all patients early detection is essential to increase their chances of survival. People diagnosed early have a 90 per cent chance of surviving five years later, but survival odds drop to just 25 per cent if the disease is more advanced.
Signs of trouble are mouth ulcers that don’t heal within three weeks, white or red patches in the mouth, and any other oral changes. Dentists are trained to spot very early signs of trouble, so regular dental appointments are key.
Mr Yousefpour said following a healthy lifestyle, eating plenty of fruit and veg, and sticking to the recommended levels of alcohol – up to 21 units for men and 14 for women – cuts the risk.