Oral cancer diagnosis delays – regular dental checks are vital
Amidst the shocking news that cancer treatment delays have placed 100,000 lives at risk, Maria Panteli and Charlotte Stawiska discuss diagnosis of oral cancer, which has seen a sharp increase in the last decade.
Posted on 23 June 2023
Oral cancer (sometimes called mouth cancer) is cancer on the lips, tongue, cheeks and throat. The ten-year survival rate varies between 18% and 57%, depending on where the cancer is and how early it is diagnosed. The number of oral cancer cases in the UK is at a record high and over a third higher than a decade ago.
What is oral cancer?
Symptoms of oral cancer can include:
- A lip or mouth sore that does not heal
- A white or reddish patch on the inside of your mouth
- Loose teeth
- A growth or lump inside your mouth
- Mouth pain
- Ear pain
- Difficult or painful swallowing
If you experience any of these symptoms for more than three weeks, you should arrange an appointment with your GP or dentist. They will examine your mouth and, if they have any concerns, you will be referred for further tests.
Oral cancer can be caused by:
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Heavy alcohol use
- Over exposure to the sun
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is the main cause of oral cancer in young people. A vaccine is offered to both boys and girls aged 12-13.
Delays in diagnosis of oral cancer
We have represented many clients who raised concerns about mouth symptoms which were not acted upon and which sadly led to a delay in the diagnosis and treatment of their oral cancer. We sadly know all too well that to maximise survival chances and minimise potential complications, early diagnosis is crucial.
If caught early, treatment will normally be surgery or radiotherapy to the affected area. If the cancer has spread, a combination of treatments may be required, including more extensive surgery and chemotherapy. Oral cancer and its treatment can lead to complications such as difficulty swallowing, a change in speech, altered taste and a changed facial expression.
Dentists are trained to spot the early signs of oral cancer. We are extremely concerned by news stories of ‘dental health black spots’ due to dentists leaving the NHS and hundreds of clinics closing around the country. Many people are left in pain or performing risky home treatments. For those who can afford it, private dentists offer emergency appointments, but a one-off treatment is no replacement for vital routine check-ups.
We support the Dental Council’s call for more funding for NHS dentistry, investment in education and boosted uptake in the HPV vaccine.
We act for clients who have had a delayed or incorrect diagnosis of oral cancer, and for family members of patients who sadly passed away following a terminal diagnosis.
Maria Panteli recently obtained a six-figure settlement for a woman in her 40s whose oral cancer diagnosis was delayed by several years. She required much more extensive surgery and was left with significant pain and scarring.
If you have experienced a late or misdiagnosis of oral cancer, or received substandard treatment, and would like to speak with a lawyer about it, please contact us on 020 7650 1200.
Specialist medical negligence claims lawyer with particular interest in missed cancer claims.
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