Mouth Cancer Action (MCA) month is a charity campaign that raises awareness of mouth cancer and its detrimental effects on the quality of life, and also promotes the value of early detection and prevention.
Over the last decade, the number of people diagnosed with mouth cancer has increased by around a third. It kills more people than cervical and testicular cancers combined. Early diagnosis of mouth cancer can transform survival rates from 50% to 90%. These figures signify the value and importance of educating patients about the risk factors involved and how vital regular dental visits are for oral cancer screening. MCA month gives an excellent opportunity to do just this.
Increase public knowledge
A starting point in increasing public knowledge of oral cancer is to actively engage in more conversations with patients. Many patients are unaware that a visual mouth cancer examination is a part of their regular check-up, so it can be helpful to explain what will be looked for. It is also important to encourage patients to check their own mouths regularly and to act promptly in getting anything unusual checked.
Additionally, risk factors should be discussed (including smoking and alcohol intake), cessation advice should be offered, and patients should be signposted to local smoking/alcohol groups. It is important to note that although these risk factors are responsible for many mouth cancer cases, it is still a disease that can affect anyone, so all patients must be vigilant for the signs and symptoms.
How your practice can get involved
Letters can also be sent out to existing patients to notify them of MCA month and give information regarding the risks of oral cancer, early warning signs and how to self-check.
Since the pandemic, people of all age groups have become more connected on online platforms, which enables a greater reach to a wider audience. Therefore, your practice website and social media pages are potent resources to promote MCA month and its messages. On the MCA website, you can download posters to display in your practice and leaflets to give to patients. There is also more information on getting involved with fundraising for the Oral Health Foundation and raising funds to advance awareness. Your dental team can also wear the blue ribbon badges that symbolise the MCA campaign and can help to pique patients' interest to learn more.
Moreover, your practice can get involved by holding a special day event offering patients and local groups mouth cancer screening and advice. This is a meaningful way of promoting awareness to patients and the local community, some of whom may not visit the dentist regularly. In turn, this will provide publicity for your practice and display goodwill (Oral Health Foundation, 2016).
As mouth cancer cases continue to increase in the adult population, early detection and quick action are crucial and often life-saving. As dental professionals, we are perfectly positioned to get people involved with MCA month and start the conversation about mouth cancer and its prevention.