Mouth Cancer Awareness Week has been running, every November, for a decade – and Dundee Dental Students are heavily engaged.
Oral cancer is on the rise among young men and women - and the five year survival rate is less than 50%, because many of these cancers are advanced before they are diagnosed.
Students focus much of their efforts on the University campus, running an oral cancer awareness booth at the Students’ Union building and cancer screening clinics at the Dental School.
Alcohol and smoking, especially combined, put people at most risk. So one method of raising awareness is to quiz people on their typical alcohol intake levels and compare this with government guidelines for safe drinking: for men, around a pint and a half of 4% volume beer per most days of the week; less for women.
“A lot of people are quite shocked that they didn’t know how much alcohol they were drinking,” says Anja Visser, President of the Dundee Dental Students’ Society.
Anja and her fellow dental students also organise or take part in other awareness and fundraising events – from musical evenings to “Tough Mudder Races”, 10-12 mile military designed endurance runs. In 2012, they raised over £1500 for the Ben Walton Trust. Established in 1996, the Trust commemorates 22 year Ben and his year long fight against oral cancer. Funds are used to raise awareness of the disease among the public and healthcare professionals, fund research and encourage appropriate palliative care.
Every five minutes, someone in the UK dies from oral cancer. In 2010, more people died from mouth cancer than from road traffic accidents.
Symptoms include growing lumps in the mouth, oral ulcers that do not heal after a fortnight, red or whire patches in the mouth or persistent soreness in the mouth.