A former Olympic boxer has described how a regular visit to his local dentist led to the discovery that he had mouth cancer.
Former heavyweight boxer Cathal O’Grady, whose cancer was only diagnosed in May of this year, said he led a healthy lifestyle and was really shocked when he was told the news.
“I don’t drink or smoke and lead an active and healthy life so I was really floored when I received the diagnosis. It just shows you that while smoking and drinking increase the risks, this disease can strike anyone. Thankfully my dentist spotted the lump in my mouth during a regular visit and then she put the arrangements in place for a biopsy and follow-on appointment with the Dublin University Dental School. So the disease was caught in its early stages and that’s really important.”
O’Grady, who now runs his own business whitecollarboxing.ie, was speaking at the launch of Mouth Cancer Awareness Day 2016. He urged people who may not have been at the dentist for some time, to avail of free checkups which will be available at hundreds of dental surgeries around the country on Mouth Cancer Awareness Day, 21st of September.
He was joined at the launch by several survivors of the disease including journalist Emily Hourican, while broadcaster and business man Bobby Kerr also lent his support.
Kerr, who was diagnosed with cancer late last year but has since made a full recovery said the fact that 26 cases of mouth cancer had been discovered on previous Mouth Cancer Awareness Days underlined the importance of getting a regular check up.
“People need to learn about this disease, to be aware of the symptoms and to get over any reluctance they may have to go for a brief and pain free examination. That’s the key message of MCAD for me. Raising awareness and encouraging people who haven’t been to their dentist for a while or who have noticed a lump in their mouth, to get it checked out” Kerr said.
Three hundred cases of mouth and pharynx cancer are detected in Ireland each year and this type of cancer kills more people – one hundred - than skin melanoma.
Dr Conor McAlister from the Irish Dental Association pointed out that if you drink or smoke the chances of getting oral cancer are up to 40 times greater.
“We are seeing an increase in the incidence of this disease and seeing it in younger people. It’s not just smokers and drinkers. Whatever the cause, the key point to remember is that early detection saves lives.”
“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” Dr McAlister said.
Free mouth cancer examinations will be available to members of the public at over 300 participating dental surgeries countrywide on MCAD.
Cases of concern to general dental practitioners will be referred to the Dental Hospitals 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 contact 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.
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.