Thousands flock to cancer awareness day

Mouth Cancer Awareness Day is hailed a success by oral health experts

Up to 10,000 patients were seen at more than 700 practices and the dental hospitals in Dublin and Cork during the recent Mouth Cancer Awareness Day.

The initiative, which offered free mouth cancer examinations, was organised following the success of last year's event that saw more than 3,000 people attend the Dublin and Cork Dental Hospitals. Of the 1,800 who attended the Dublin open day last year, 29 suspicious lesions, requiring biopsy were found as well as three early cancers and two established cancers. Of the 1,393 people who attended the Cork event, 49 pre-malignant lesions and one cancer were found. A further person, unable to remain in the queue on the day of the Dublin event, later attended his GP and was referred back to the Dublin Dental Hospital where a cancer was discovered.

Professor Leo Stassen, consultant and oral and maxillofacial surgeon at Dublin Dental Hospital and St James's Hospital, said patients are dying because of a failure to diagnose the disease early. He said: "Overall, fewer than 50 per cent of patients diagnosed with mouth cancer survive more than five years. There are more than 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. More worryingly, the incidence of it is increasing in younger people and it is unclear why this is happening.

"This is a major public health issue. However, it is still not given enough attention or resources by the HSE."

Mouth Cancer Awareness Day 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.