A Call to Action: The New Charter on Mouth Cancer
This year marks 21 years of Denplan sponsoring Mouth Cancer Action Month (MCAM), the UK’s biggest charity campaign for mouth cancer organised by the Oral Health Foundation. After a difficult year following the pandemic mouth cancer cases are still on the rise, and it remains more important than ever for dental teams to get involved in our campaign.
More than 2,700 people in the UK die from mouth cancer every year. Families shattered by devastating loss. Individuals, most commonly men over 40, who could potentially have been saved by an earlier diagnosis.
As dental professionals, many of us would have seen first-hand the significant impact this horrible disease has on patients’ lives, both practically and emotionally. Following treatment, some people will have difficulty breathing, swallowing, drinking and eating. Speech can be affected or lost, and in some cases facial disfigurement is a heart-breaking result. These consequences can cause as much distress as the cancer itself and sometimes depression.
Dental practice teams are in a unique position to help spot early signs and save lives. Sadly, we know that during the pandemic many cases of mouth cancer have gone undiagnosed due to people being unable to access regular dentistry.
I am grateful to each and every one of our 6,600 Denplan members who have supported Mouth Cancer Action Month along with us over the past two decades, as we’ve been lobbying for greater awareness and better patient outcomes. But more needs to be done – which is why I’m asking for your support again this year.
Firstly, I encourage you to download the variety of practice resources such as practice posters, a campaign toolkit and social media posts from the Simply Select marketing portal to help spread the awareness to your patients.
Secondly, building on your kind support in writing to local MPs last year, we are planning to continue to make outreach to MPs and policy makers a key part of the 2021 campaign’s activities.
I was shocked by recent erroneous statements from a government minister about the ‘ad hoc’ role dentistry plays in mouth cancer detection and it has served to underline the worrying deficit in understanding of mouth cancer that persists and therefore, also demonstrates the vital importance of this campaign. That is why Mouth Cancer Action Month 2021 will prove to be so important in helping dentists overcome the disruption of the pandemic and getting back on top of the rising caseloads of oral cancers.
Taking advantage of the return to an in-person parliament, Denplan and the Oral Health Foundation will host a parliamentary ‘drop-in’ at the Palace of Westminster for Members of Parliament and Peers to engage with the campaign and learn more about mouth cancer. This will be an exciting opportunity to bring our campaign’s message to the heart of government and improve understanding of the issue amongst those whose decisions impact patients’ lives from a policy standpoint.
In addition to this, we are working closely with the Oral Health Foundation to produce a ‘Mouth Cancer Charter’ that we hope MPs and government ministers will sign up to. The Charter will set out key policy ideas designed to improve the current state of mouth cancer diagnosis and treatment. By setting out several policy proposals, and asking MPs to commit to carrying them forward, we hope to improve outcomes for our patients and make progress in tackling mouth cancer by bringing Westminster’s attention to this pressing issue.
As dentists, we need to continue to educate ourselves on mouth cancer and perhaps unsurprisingly, it was in 2012 that the General Dental Council (GDC) made ‘Early detection of Oral Cancer’ a recommended topic in dentists’ CPD syllabus. In this same vein, I encourage you to attend our brand new multidisciplinary webinars running in November with leading clinicians and dental experts. The lecture series covers a range of mouth cancer and oral health topics and you can earn verifiable CPD.