- Published: Friday, 04 December 2020 08:23
- Written by News Editor
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The Oral Health Foundation is calling for urgent action around cancer diagnosis, following new data that shows mouth cancer referrals have fallen by a third (33%) since the beginning of the pandemic. New figures collected from across the UK, reveal the number of people being referred for possible mouth cancer fell from 2,257 in the six months prior to March 2020, to 1,506 in the six months after March 2020.
In total, six out of the seven NHS Trusts saw mouth cancer referrals tumble during this time, with two hospitals in Wales recording a 47% drop in referrals – the most in the UK. In Northern Ireland, mouth cancer referrals have fallen by 36% since the beginning of the pandemic while England and Scotland have seen decreases of 31% and 30%, respectively. With COVID-19 limiting dental practice activity to 20% of normal activity, the Oral Health Foundation is deeply concerned that many people with early stages of mouth cancer are going undiagnosed.
In the absence of seeing health professionals face-to-face, Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation highlights the importance of self-checks at home and knowing how to spot mouth cancer in the early stages. He says: “Regular dental check-ups and GP appointments are the main routes for identifying the early stages of mouth cancer. We fear that without access to dental and wider health professionals, that many mouth cancer cases will go undiagnosed.
“A person’s quality of life after being treated for mouth cancer, as well as their chances of beating the disease, is highly dependent on the time of diagnosis. By allowing so many potential mouth cancers to go untreated, there is a real danger of more people losing their life to the disease. While dental and GP visits remain disrupted it is important that everybody knows how to check themselves for mouth cancer. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, contact your dental practice, who will be able to see you as an emergency patient.”
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on dental access in the UK. Research by the Oral Health Foundation shows that more than half (56%) of UK adults claim to have had dental check-ups postponed or cancelled. During this time, one-in-six (16%) have experienced at least one of the potential early warning signs of the disease. Meanwhile, the British Dental Association estimate a 10 million backlog of appointments due to dental practices being forced to shut down during the pandemic.
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