A survivor of mouth cancer, who developed the disease when she was just 19 years old, is urging people to get checked by their dentist or doctor if they have any concerns.
Roisin Whelan, a Dublin-based psychotherapist, was diagnosed at 19 with nasopharynx cancer, which is cancer of the back of the throat.
"I was studying for my Leaving Cert and I just knew I wasn't right. For the next year I had a pain in my ear and my hearing was affected. Then I developed a lump in my neck. Because of my age and because I wasn't a smoker or really a drinker, the doctors weren't really thinking mouth cancer. It just shows this disease can strike anyone," she explained.
Ms Whelan's treatment was ‘very severe' and lasted for five months. She has been in remission for the last 12 years.
"I think the key point for anyone with concerns is to get checked by their dentist or doctor as soon as possible," Ms. Whelan said.
She made her comments on Mouth Cancer Awareness Day (September 20). Currently in Ireland, 300 new cases of mouth cancer are diagnosed every year and two people die from it every week.
Some of the main risk factors include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, a diet lacking in fruit and vegetables and exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV) through sexual contact.
This year's event is focusing on homeless people and other socially excluded groups. Homeless people are less likely to get the opportunity to visit a dentist, which means there is less chance of the disease being detected.
As part of Mouth Cancer Awareness Day 2017, dentists are providing free oral exams for homeless people through the Simon Community network in Dublin, Cork and Galway, and the Peter McVerry Trust and the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin.
This is the 8th Mouth Cancer Awareness Day and since it began, around 30 cases of mouth cancer have been detected as a direct result of oral exams carried out on the day.
"Mouth Cancer Awareness Day is a chance to shine a light on the importance of oral health and being checked regularly by your dentist. We are reminding people that they are entitled to a free oral exam once a year under the PRSI and Medical Card schemes and we encourage everyone to use this opportunity as early detection saves lives," commented Dr Conor McAllister of the Irish Dental Association.
Signs and symptoms of mouth cancer include:
-A sore or ulcer in the mouth that does not heal within three weeks.
-White or red patches inside the mouth
-A lump in the mouth or neck
-A persistent sore throat or hoarseness.
If you are concerned about mouth cancer, or any other type of cancer, you can call the National Cancer Helpline on 1800 200 700.