Dental students are working with a Scotland-based charity to share good practice
During Mouth Cancer Awareness Month, the Dundee Dental Student Society worked in partnership with
the charity Let’s Talk About Mouth Cancer to help raise awareness within the Dundee University community of oral cavity cancer.
Head and neck cancer (HNC) incidence is growing – increasing by 83 per cent in the UK since the late 70s, with global cases predicted to rise by 1.08million cases annually1,2. HNC is now the eighth most common cancer3, with 12,400 cases diagnosed in the UK every year1. Health promotion is at the forefront of the battle against this disease; however, it has a long way to go as many are still unaware of the risks and causes of this potentially life changing cancer.
The Dental Society has always worked closely with Letís Talk About Mouth Cancer, a Scotland-based charity founded in 2014, with some of its members being Dundee University graduates. Its core aims are to improve the prognosis of patients diagnosed with oral cancer through early detection, support research into diagnostic tools, raise awareness of mouth cancer within the public and to share knowledge of good practice amongst healthcare professionals4.
The charity had humble beginnings, with early events involving volunteer dentists providing free mouth cancer screening in public places5. It has since grown in size, with the addition of their patient champion Barbara in 2020, a tongue cancer survivor who has helped raise awareness of the disease and funds for the charity6. The charity provides teaching around oral cancer detection to final year dental students, vocational dental practitioners, and newly qualified dental hygiene therapists, helping to prepare them for what can be a daunting time as newly qualified dentists/dental care professionals.
The society runs a health promotion stall outside the university student union, where we educate both students and staff about risk factors, oral manifestations of the disease, and how to perform a mouth cancer self-examination. Many of those we spoke to were unsure on what to look for, and where to go if they did spot anything unusual.
Some people we spoke to were shocked to hear that alcohol was a main risk factor of oral cancer, and with the associated ëdrinking cultureí of many peopleís university experience, it is vital that young people, in particular, are made aware of this link and the risks involved. Young people must understand that habits and lifestyle choices they make in their early adulthood can shape their future health, with this cancer in particular having the potential to cause significant alterations to speech, swallowing and appearance at an early age.
Let’s Talk About Mouth Cancer provided us with their ‘five simple steps for self-examination’ leaflet which we distributed to those we spoke to. This is a simple, systematic approach anyone can carry out at home to aid in early detection of potential oral cancers.
The week culminated with our annual ‘Acoustic Night’ – an open mic fundraiser event attended by both staff and students where all are invited to showcase their musical talents. The night was rounded off by our teaching lab technician Chris and his student band, performing dentistry-based parodies on popular songs to get the crowd on their feet and up dancing. The event was a huge success, and after a long and, at times, stressful semester it was a brilliant chance to socialise with friends and dental school staff.
A grand total of £1,587 was raised for Let’s Talk About Mouth Cancer via a raffle, with thanks to staff, students, society sponsors and local businesses who donated a variety of fabulous prizes.
1 BDJ Team (2016). Rates of mouth cancer rising to all time high.
Available at www.nature.com/articles/bdjteam20162#article-info
(Accessed January 2, 2023)
2 Johnson DE, Burtness B, Leemans CR, Lui VWY, Bauman JE, Grandis JR (2020). Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Available at pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33243986/ (Accessed January 8, 2023)
3 Cancer Research UK (2016). Head and Neck Cancer Statistics.
Available at www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/head-and-neck-cancers#heading-Zero (Accessed January 2, 2023)
4 Let’s Talk About Mouth Cancer – Our Goals. Available at www.ltamc.org/our-goals/ (Accessed January 2, 2023)
5 Scottish Dental Magazine (2017) Making Some Noise. Available atwww.sdmag.co.uk/2017/11/24/making-some-noise/ (Accessed January 2, 2023)
6 Let’s Talk About Mouth Cancer – Our Team. Available at www.ltamc.org/the-team/ (Accessed January 2, 2023)