Promoting mouth cancer awareness

A mouth cancer survivor who was diagnosed with the disease two years ago has urged people to avail of free examinations during Mouth Cancer Awareness Day next week.

Suzanne O'Leary, a mother of four who lives in Gorey Co Wexford, said a five-minute examination in 2010 probably saved her life.

"The publicity around Mouth Cancer Awareness Day 2010 convinced me to get an examination. My dentist referred me immediately to the Dublin Dental Hospital (DDH)."

"I was pregnant at the time but once I'd had my baby I was examined again at DDH and two weeks later a large section of my tongue was removed at St James's Hospital. If I hadn't got it checked out I probably wouldn't be here today. It's as simple as that. I would urge as many people as possible to have the free examination next week," Suzanne said.

Free mouth cancer examinations will be available to members of the public at over 700 participating dental surgeries countrywide and at the Cork Dental University Hospitals on Mouth Cancer Awareness Day (MCAD), Wednesday September 19.

Three hundred cases of mouth cancer are detected in Ireland each year, and this type of cancer now kills more Irish people than cervical cancer or skin melanoma.

Around 10,000 people were examined on MCAD last year and 13 cases of mouth cancer were discovered.

According to the National Cancer Registry, approximately 50% of all mouth cancers are diagnosed at an advanced stage. This can result in more complex treatment with a greater impact on quality of life and overall survival.

Mouth Cancer Awareness Day was initiated by a group of mouth, head and neck cancer survivors in September 2010. On that occasion, over 3,000 people queued outside the Cork and Dublin Dental University Hospitals for a free mouth cancer examination. Six cases of cancer were detected on the day.

Last year, the Irish Dental Association (IDA) gave its full support to the initiative and will be doing so again this year, with up to 700 dentists nationwide offering a free mouth cancer examination to members of the public.

Dr Conor McAlister from the Irish Dental Association says the key to successful treatment is early diagnosis.

"Overall, less than 50% of patients diagnosed with mouth cancer survive more than five years. There are over 300 cases of this disease every year with 100 or more deaths. That means two Irish people are dying every week from this lethal disease. However if it detected early, the chances of a good outcome are greatly enhanced" he said.

Dr McAlister said that because up to 700 dentists nationwide are once again participating in this year's initiative, and he hoped many more people would be examined.

Dr Eleanor O'Sullivan, Chairman of the Mouth Cancer Awareness Group, who works at Cork University Dental School and Hospital, said oral cancer is the sixth most common cancer for men in Ireland and the incidence of the disease among women is increasing.

"This disease doesn't get as much attention as other cancers but it is very important that people become aware of the risk factors. Raising awareness is what MCAD is all about. But many people will also have to take the next stop and make necessary lifestyle changes if required" .

Members of the public can find a list of dentists participating in the free check-ups in their area by logging on to They can then phone the surgery to find out the exact times examinations are available.

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.

Anyone who has concerns about mouth cancer can speak with a specialist nurse in confidence by calling the National Cancer Helpline on Freephone 1800 200 700.

People will be seen on the day 19th September in Cork Dental Hospital by appointment only. Please call 021-4901169. The phone line will be manned from 10-4pm from September 12 to 18.

Find out more about oral cancer here



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