If you’re heading down to Ock Street over the course of November, you might see an unusual sight. Yes, rather than it being a figment of your imagination, that is blue lipstick that is being worn. And yes, they are taking selfies whilst wearing that lipstick. Don’t worry though, it’s not a new fashion or uniform that you need to politely compliment: the team at Ock Street are donning blue lipstick in support of Mouth Cancer Action Month.
Over the course of November, Mouth Cancer Action Month aims to raise awareness of this lesser known but increasingly prevalent form of cancer. Hopefully this will lead to increased prevention and earlier detection. November will see a drive in education about the risk factors that could make this disease more likely, and the signs and symptoms we should all look out for.
So what are the statistics? Last year saw 6,700 people in the UK diagnosed with mouth cancer. More than 2,000 people die of this disease each year. To put this into context, this is more than the number of deaths from testicular and cervical cancer combined. Over the last decade, the number of diagnoses has increased by a third: it is one of very few cancers still predicted to increase in the number of sufferers over coming years. Read like this, it sounds pretty scary doesn’t it?
Knowing the signs and symptoms to look out for is really important. Mouth cancer can strike in a number of places: the lips, tongue, gums and cheeks for example. Look out for the following three possible indicators which should not be ignored:
If you notice any of these symptoms then speak to your dentist or doctor immediately. They can then carry out a thorough examination.
It is also a good idea to be aware of the risk factors. Lifestyle choices are a key factor, as 91% of mouth cancer cases are linked to lifestyle. Making a few changes here and there could dramatically reduce your risk. The majority of mouth cancer cases are as a result of smoking and tobacco use. Stopping smoking reduces your risk of mouth cancer dramatically. Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with approximately a third of all cases: drink in moderation. Those who smoke and drink excessively are in the highest risk group. Other risk factors include transmission of Human Papillomavirus through oral sex, and poor diet, chewing or smokeless tobacco and environmental tobacco smoke.
Blue lips aside, what does Mouth Cancer Action Month have in store for us? Over the course of November, dentists across the country will be raising awareness of this form of cancer through information stands and displays. Information will be readily available in other forms too: why not ask your dentist for more information when you come in for your check up? As well as a drive to offer information, numerous fundraising efforts will take place, from the blue lip selfies, to a blue ribbon campaign, sponsored swim to cycle rides: the array of activities planned is endless.