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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 13:45 GMT
Calls for checks on mouth cancer
Mouth examination
People who smoke and drink are 30 times more likely to get oral cancer
A woman who was diagnosed with mouth cancer is backing calls for people to examine themselves for possible signs of the disease.

Lorraine Bass, 36, from Denbighshire, needed major surgery on her tongue after a lump was found to be a tumour.

Doctors said her life was saved because she had the lump checked early.

Mrs Bass was treated at Glan Clwyd Hospital, Rhyl, which is holding a drop-in screening clinic on Tuesday as part of Mouth Cancer Awareness Week.

The campaign, run by the British Dental Health Foundation, highlights how picking up early signs of the condition, in the same way people check for breast or testicular cancer, is the best way for them to be on guard.

Mrs Bass said: "Obviously early diagnosis is crucial. Mouth cancer is an insidious illness and it will just take your life.

Lorraine Bass
Lorraine Bass needed major surgery on her tongue

"You have to check. By checking you can catch it early and stay alive for your loved ones."

About 4,300 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed in the UK each year. Mrs Bass, a mother-of-two who does not smoke, said the first sign she had of the trouble was in October 2002 when she was at college.

She said: "I was having lunch and I bit the tumour. I didn't realise it was a tumour at the time, I thought it was my tongue. It was extremely painful - I almost went through the roof.

"But I'm not one for going to the doctor very much if I can help it. I just assumed it would heal.

"About two weeks later, the same thing happened. I thought I'd re-bitten the cut area."

An ulcer that does not heal over three to four weeks
Any unexplained red or white patches in the mouth
Unexplained loss of teeth
Unexplained numbness of upper, or lower lip, or the tongue
Unexplained nose bleed from one side
Unexplained bleeding from the mouth
Persistent one sided sore throat
Persistent earache and sore throat
Neck lump that does not go away

She said she bought some products from a chemist store and tried to treat what she still thought was the cut on her tongue before going to see her GP, who prescribed some tablets.

When she went back two weeks later, she saw a different GP who recommended that they had her tongue checked by a specialist. Mrs Bass went to Glan Clwyd, where a consultant diagnosed the cancer.

"I was shocked because I really had it stuck in my head that it was a mouth ulcer. I was told I was diagnosed quite early. Unfortunately, there is always the fear of it returning."

She underwent 14 hours of surgery, which involved cutting away part of her tongue and rebuilding it with a flap of skin from her forearm.

Mrs Bass said doctors had been unable to explain why she contracted the disease when, as a non-smoker and a light drinker, she was not in a high-risk category.

Risk factors

The ratio of women to men suffering with mouth cancer has increased by a third over the last 10 years, though men are still twice as likely to develop the condition.

The main risk factors of mouth cancer are smoking and drinking alcohol to excess, and people who do both are up to 30 times more likely to develop mouth cancer.

The drop in screening clinic at the hospital on Tuesday afternoon is open to anyone who is concerned they may be experiencing symptoms of the disease.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said: "Self examination is now the norm for breast cancer and testicular cancer - it needs to be the same for mouth cancer."

The Mouth Cancer Awareness Week 2005 theme is "It Could Be You" to highlight how the condition can strike anyone at any time.

Timeline: Smoking and disease
26 Oct 05 |  Health


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