September 2018. A former cancer sufferer has urged anyone who has concerns over any lumps or swelling in their mouth or throat to get it checked out as quickly as possible.
Stephen Fegan, who was working as a brick layer in Cork at the time, said if it hadn’t been for the recession and the collapse in the construction sector, he wouldn’t be alive today.
When Stephen saw that work was dropping off he decided to go ahead with a hernia operation he had been putting off for some time. While in hospital he asked the doctors to check a lump on the side of his neck. The lump, the size of a jelly bean, was subsequently removed but was found to be cancerous. Stephen then began a course of aggressive cancer treatment during which he had to get blood transfusions and lost three and a half stone. It was two years before he felt better.
Speaking at the launch of Mouth Cancer Awareness Day 2018 he said; “I’ve been clear for nine years now, but I get checked every six months. It was the hernia that got me into hospital. As my wife says, the recession saved my life. I’d advise anyone out there with concerns to go for a check-up as soon as possible. The earlier it’s caught the better.”
Mouth Cancer Awareness Day 2018 is taking place on Wednesday Sept 19th. This year Mouth Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Ireland (MHNCAI) is collaborating with the Irish Men’s Shed’s Association to raise awareness of the disease, and will also be running a social media campaign in order to target men over the age of 50 as they are one of the high-risk groups for mouth cancer.
Seven hundred cases of mouth, head and neck cancer are detected in Ireland each year with 100 or more deaths, that’s almost two people every week. Although not as well-known as other cancers, mouth cancer kills more Irish people than skin melanoma.
Dr Eleanor O’Sullivan, Senior Lecturer, Oral Surgery, Cork University Dental School & Hospital, who was one of the team who treated Stephen, says it’s important that people are aware of the disease and the symptoms.
“This year’s campaign is putting a particular emphasis on men who have not attended their local dentist for a while. We’re encouraging them to attend their dentist or doctor if they have any concerns and to have regular dental check-ups even if they have no remaining natural teeth.”
“Dentists have volunteered to give talks to ‘Shedders’ in up to 20 Men’s’ Sheds around the country on various dates during the month of September which is excellent and we hope many more will happen in subsequent months. This is a great opportunity to meet local men in the community and to share the message with them about the signs, symptoms, risk factors and the importance of early detection and the dentists’ role in this” she said.
Edel Byrne, Health and Wellbeing Manager with the Irish Men’s Sheds Association said they were delighted to be associated with this initiative.
“While mouth cancer is a very detectable disease, it’s not widely known that it’s the sixth most common cancer in men worldwide. Raising awareness is key and we will be encouraging our members to attend their local shed meeting where a dentist will give advice and talk to members about mouth cancer. Men’s Sheds promotes better mental and physical health for our members through our Shed’s for Life initiative, and this latest initiative fits perfectly with that” she said.
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 head and neck cancer survive more than five years.
Dr Kieran O’Connor, President of the Irish Dental Association says the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer may include a sore or ulcer in the mouth that does not heal within 3 weeks.
“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. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is also associated with certain types of mouth, head and neck cancer. Whatever the cause, the key point to remember is that early detection saves lives.”
“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 get it checked out. Everyone who has a medical card is entitled to a free examination annually while most other people will be covered under the PRSI scheme” Dr O’Connor said.
For more information go to www.mouthcancerawareness.ie Anyone with 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
Background to Mouth Cancer Awareness Day (MCAD)
Mouth Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Ireland was setup in 2009. MCAD is a joint initiative by MHNCAI whose members are the Irish Dental Association, Irish Cancer Society, Dublin Dental University Hospital, Cork Dental University Hospital, the Dental Health Foundation, the National Cancer Control Programme and Cancer Survivors.
Mouth Cancer Awareness Day 19th September 2018 www.mouthcancerawareness.ie and www.dentist.ie
Tips for a healthy mouth:
Visit a dentist regularly even if you wear dentures.
When brushing your teeth, look out for any changes in your mouth or neck.
Use a lip balm that contains sunblock.
Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Quit smoking tobacco, chewing tobacco, betel quid, gutkha and paan