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Early detection saves lives, says Cheltenham dentist ahead of a mouth cancer awareness campaign

Cheltenham dentist Tim Rumney (pictured) believes many people are unaware of the importance of dental examinations to detect the early signs of conditions such as mouth cancer.

The clinical director and practice owner at Illume said while many people are aware of skin and other forms of cancer, many are unaware of the symptoms of mouth cancer.

“When a patient visits their dentist, they are thinking more about the condition of their teeth, from fillings to hygiene to orthodontics and crowns more than anything else,” he said.

“Cancer is most likely the last thing on their mind and they would most likely think it’s a matter for their GP to spot. But it’s a dentist or a dental hygienist who is more likely to spot such symptoms.

“And the sooner it is diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated at an early stage, greatly increasing chances of survival.”

Illume, located at 3A Queen’s Road in Cheltenham routinely undertakes mouth cancer screening as part of every new client consultation and healthy mouth review.

During November the dental practice’s team will be taking part in Mouth Cancer Action Month.

The month-long campaign aims to raise awareness of mouth cancer and to get more such cancer diagnosed at an early stage.

More than 7,800 people were diagnosed with mouth cancer in the UK last year, according to the Oral Health Foundation, resulting in nearly 2,000 deaths.

“The number of diagnoses has risen by a third in the past 10 years and it is expected to rise further,” said Tim.

“That means it is increasingly important for everyone to have a regular examination at their dentist and people should regularly check their own mouths and seek advice from their dentist if they spot any of the following signs:

An ulcer that does not heal after 3 weeks

Persistent discomfort or pain in the mouth

White or red patches in the mouth or throat

Difficulty swallowing

Speech problems – husky voice, difficulty pronouncing words, slur

A lump in the neck – swelling of your lymph nodes that does not disappear after 3 weeks

A lump or thickening on the lip

A lump in the mouth or throat

Unusual bleeding or numbness in the mouth

Loose teeth for no apparent reason

Difficulty moving the jaw

Behaviours that can reducing the risk of mouth cancer include:

Visiting your Dentist regularly and being screened for signs of mouth cancer.

Not smoking or chewing tobacco, gutkha/paan or betel.

Limiting alcohol consumption and following national guidelines (that's 2–3 units a day for women and 3–4 units a day for men).

Eating a healthier low meat, low fat diet rich in fruit and vegetables and vitamins A, C & E — this helps to provide protection from mouth and other cancers.

Adopting safe sex practices — increasingly mouth cancers are associated with HPV which can be transmitted through oral sex.

To make an appointment with Illume, telephone 01242 522230 or email