Tuesday, June 2, 1998 Published at 23:36 GMT 00:36 UK
Health: Latest News
Oral cancer warning for dental laggards
Dentists are trained to pick up tell-tale signs of oral cancer
Delaying that dreaded visit to the dentist could make the difference between life and death. The British Dental Association has said it is more difficult for dentists to treat oral cancer if it is not discovered early enough.
The warning comes on the day the BDA publishes a booklet for dentists called "Oral Cancer - guidelines for early detection".
Treatment of the cancer is more effective if lesions are detected before they have a chance to spread and early diagnosis can increase a patient's chance of surviving the disease for another five years from 50% to 80%.
Dentists are trained to detect tumours, which can start as whitish or reddish patches or ulcers in the mouth that fail to heal.
"If oral cancer is diagnosed early, it can be treated successfully," said Dr Geoff Craig, chairman of the BDA's Health and Safety Policy Group.
"Advances in technology and surgical techniques have also improved the quality of life of people who survive."
He said the association wanted to see a screening programme for high-risk groups, better health education aimed at smokers and more training for dentists and dental hygienists.
Oral cancer: the facts