Wednesday 10th September 2014.
A cancer survivor has urged people who have any concerns about lumps or patches in their mouth or throat area to get them checked out however innocuous they may seem.
Stand up comedian and actor Eddie Naessens said his own cancer started with a tiny bump and a strange zing in his cheek. It turned out to be a rare and aggressive form of cancer
Eddie, who previously played the role of the evil Dr Jack Shanahan in Fair City, was speaking about his experience of the disease at the launch of Mouth Cancer Awareness Day 2014.
“At first I was more curious than concerned the symptoms seemed so innocuous, trivial in fact. But I pursued it and got tests done and then it was confirmed. The same thing happened when it recurred a couple of years later. Again I just had a feeling things weren’t right and again unfortunately I was proved to be correct”
“For me the message is simple. Don’t die of embarrassment. Don’t be afraid to be stupid. People need to know about this disease, to be aware of the symptoms and to get over their reluctance to go for brief and pain free examination. That’s a key part of MCAD for me. Raising awareness and encouraging people to take action” Eddie said.
Dr Claire Healy, a consultant at the Dublin Dental University Hospital and School of Dental Science, Trinity College Dublin said the incidence of oral cancer is increasing in Europe.
“This is clearly seen in UK figures and there has been a significant increase in the incidence of mouth cancer in Irish women in recent years. Up until now this was a disease of older people, now we are seeing more cases in young people”
“If you smoke and drink the chances of you getting oral cancer are up to 40 times greater. However the lack of risk factors does not preclude oral cancer diagnosis. Whatever the cause, the key point to remember is that early detection saves lives” Dr Healy said.
Three hundred cases of mouth and pharynx cancer are detected in Ireland each year and this type of cancer kills more Irish people than skin melanoma. This is the fifth year of the campaign to highlight mouth cancer and since the first awareness day in 2010 22 cases of mouth cancer have been diagnosed.
Dr Conor McAlister from the Irish Dental Association said the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer may include a sore or ulcer in the mouth that does not heal within 3 weeks.
“Other signs are white or red patches inside the mouth, a lump in the mouth or neck or a persistent sore throat or hoarseness. If you or someone you know hasn’t visited the dentist in a long time, we would urge you to come along and bring your friend or family member for an exam next Wednesday on Mouth Cancer Awareness Day” Dr McAlister said.
Free mouth cancer examinations will be available to members of the public at over 500 participating dental surgeries countrywide and at the Cork University Dental School and Hospital on MCAD, Wednesday 17th September 2014. Patients intending on getting an examination at Cork Dental Hospital need to call to book an appointment on 021 490 1169 between 10am and 2pm.
Cases of concern to general dental practitioners will be referred to the Cork University Dental School and Hospital or the Dublin Dental University Hospital for further management.
Members of the public can find a list of participating dentists in their area by logging on to www.mouthcancerawareness.ie . They can then phone the surgery to find out the exact times examinations are available.
According to the National Cancer Registry in Ireland, approximately 50% of all mouth cancers are diagnosed at an advanced stage. This can result in more complex treatment with a greater impact on quality of life and overall survival.
Overall less than 50% of patients diagnosed with mouth cancer or pharynx survive more than five years. There are over 300 incidences of this disease every year with 100 or more deaths. That means two Irish people are dying every week from this lethal disease. However if it is detected early, the chances of a good outcome are greatly enhanced.
Anyone who has concerns about mouth cancer can speak with a specialist nurse in confidence by calling the National Cancer Helpline on Freephone 1800 200 700.
For Further Information
Contact Kieran Garry
01/6650455 or 087/2368366
Note to Editor
Background to MCAD
Mouth Cancer Awareness Day was initiated by a group of mouth, head and neck cancer survivors in September 2010. On that occasion, over 3,000 people queued outside the Cork and Dublin Dental University Hospitals for a free mouth cancer examination. Since 2011 the Irish Dental Association has thrown its full support behind the initiative and will be doing so again this year. MCAD is a joint initiative by the Irish Dental Association, Irish Cancer Society, Dublin Dental University Hospital, Cork Dental University Hospital, the Dental Health Foundation and Mouth, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Ireland.
The main risk factors of Mouth Cancer are:
Smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes or marijuana
Chewing smokeless tobacco, betel quid or paan
Excessive alcohol consumption
Using both tobacco and alcohol together – this greatly increases your risk
Excessive exposure to sunlight or radiation
Exposure to the Human papilloma virus (HPV) through sexual contact
A diet lacking in fruit and vegetables