BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 January 2008, 09:00 GMT
Clinics checking for mouth cancer
Mouth cancer consult
Consultants are concerned some cancers are missed
Walk-in clinics are being offered at a Devon hospital to ensure people are not missing early signs of mouth cancer.

Doctors in Devon and Cornwall fear more people may be missing symptoms because a shortage of NHS dentists means they have check-ups less frequently.

The open clinics are at Plymouth's Derriford Hospital until Wednesday. More are to be held later in the year.

Consultants say such clinics can often be less intimidating for people than getting a GP or dentist's referral.

Clinic volunteer Vera Mitchell was diagnosed with mouth cancer nearly a decade ago.

She said people needed to be vigilant and get any persistent sore spots in the mouth and throat checked out.

We're a little bit wary that there maybe a hidden cohort of people who don't get the dental access
Paul McArdle, consultant surgeon
She said: "Because it was diagnosed early, it meant it was able to be treated early. It gave me a much better survival rate."

The latest figures show that just over half of adults in the South West have seen an NHS dentist in the past two years.

Last year more than 250,000 people in Cornwall alone were thought to not have an NHS dentist.

Derriford Consultant Maxillofacial Surgeon Paul McArdle said he was concerned such figures meant some mouth cancers were missed.

He said: "We're a little bit wary that there maybe a hidden cohort of people who don't get the dental access that they might do and miss screening.

"Hence they don't get referred at the early stage that is necessary."

There are 4,500 new cases of the disease in the UK every year, but fewer than half of patients survive because it is not detected early enough.

About 80% of cases are associated with smoking.

Work to start on dental school
23 Oct 07 |  Cornwall

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific