herald

Sunday 20 January 2019

Check-up urged as mouth cancer rates increasing

actor Eddie Naessens has opened up about surviving mouth cancer in a bid to encourage other people to get checked out.

Eddie, who previously played Dr Jack Shanahan in Fair City, spoke about his experience with the disease at the launch of mouth cancer awareness day, which takes place next Wednesday.

He said that his own cancer started with a tiny bump and a strange zing in his cheek. It turned out to be a rare and aggressive form of cancer.

"At first I was more curious than concerned, the symptoms seemed so innocuous, trivial in fact. But I pursued it and got tests done and then it was confirmed," he said.

"The same thing happened when it recurred a couple of years later. Again, I just had a feeling things weren't right."

Eddie, who is also a stand-up comedian, said: "For me, the message is simple: 'Don't die of embarrassment. Don't be afraid to be stupid.' People need to know about the disease, to be aware of the symptoms."

The cancer survivor urged people who have any concerns about lumps or patches in their mouth or throat area to get them checked out, no matter how innocuous they may seem.

Some 300 cases of mouth and pharnyx cancer are detected in Ireland each year.

Two people now die each week from mouth cancer.

This is the fifth year of the campaign to highlight mouth cancer, and since then 22 cases have been diagnosed on the awareness days.

Dr Claire Healy, a consultant in the Dublin Dental University Hospital, said that the incidence of oral cancer is increasing in Europe.

"This is clearly seen in UK figures and there has been a significant increase in the incidence of mouth cancer in Irish women in recent years. Up until now this was a disease of older people, now we are seeing more cases in young people."

She said: "If you smoke and drink, the chances of you getting oral cancer are up to 40 times greater."

However, the lack of risk factors does not preclude an oral cancer diagnosis. Whatever the cause, the key point to remember is that early detection saves lives, she said.

Symptoms

Meanwhile, Dr Conor McAlister from the Irish Dental Association said that the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer can include a sore or ulcer in the mouth that does not heal within three weeks.

"Other signs are white or red patches inside the mouth, a lump in the mouth or neck or a persistent sore throat or hoarseness," he said.

Free mouth cancer examinations will be available to members of the public at over 500 participating dental surgeries countrywide next Wednesday.

Cases of concern to general dental practitioners will be referred for management.

fdillon@herald.ie

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