May 24, 2022

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Woman’s ‘sore throat’ turned out to be mouth cancer after routine trip to dentist ended with radiotherapy

A North Yorkshire woman has told how her life was saved thanks to a routine check-up at her dentists.

Martine Clark, 60, from Malton, who is now in remission from mouth cancer, is grateful that her dentist encouraged her to have a persistent sore throat investigated after a check-up.

It started a process that led to a diagnosis of cancer in one of her tonsils but, thanks to early intervention the cancer was caught early enough and her subsequent treatment meant it was eradicated.

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Martine said: “I’d had a sore throat on and off for a number of months over the winter of 2018/2019, and simply put it down to the time of year.

“Fortunately I had an appointment and asked her to check to see if there was anything she could see.

A Generic Photo of a woman at the dentist, dental, stock

“Catherine was brilliant, she simply advised me there was an area of ulceration on my right tonsil that needed further investigation.

“Within two months I’d been referred to see a consultant, who recommended having my tonsil removed, and had the tonsillectomy.

“A month later I was given the cancer diagnosis and the optimistic news that there was no evidence that it had spread.

“I began radiotherapy a few weeks later and, after six weeks of daily visits to the hospital in Leeds, my treatment had finished.

“I knew I was well on the road to recovery when I could eat a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, as previously anything with vinegar or spices would cause my mouth to be very sore.”

It’s been two and a half years since Martine visited Catherine at Portman Dental Care’s clinic in Malton, for the check-up that helped change her life and two years since she finished her treatment.

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Catherine said: “As dentists, we see first-hand the impact mouth cancer can have, but, as Martine’s story had clearly demonstrated, we can play a pivotal role in the detection of mouth cancer.

“As dentists will always check for signs of the disease during any routine appointment, so no one should ever be worried about visiting their dentist.

“That’s why during Mouth Cancer Action Month we also want to ensure people are aware of what the signs and symptoms are, what to do if they spot an issue themselves and what steps they can take to reduce the risk of developing mouth cancer.

“Early diagnosis of mouth cancer leads to a 90% survival rate, which is why it is essential that people visit their dentist for regular examinations.”

Cases of mouth cancer in the UK have increased exponentially in recent years, with one person diagnosed every hour. This is a 58% increase compared to a decade ago and a 97% rise since 2000.

Sadly, 2,704 people die from mouth cancer every year and astonishingly, more than one-in-four (26%) adults under-34 have not heard of mouth cancer.

Martine added: “The treatment was tough, leaving me with constant mouth ulcers, very tired and for a couple of months I could only eat liquid food.

“I was lucky that catching it early meant my treatment did not include chemotherapy and was of a shorter duration.”

Common signs of mouth cancer : Mouth ulcers that don’t heal in three weeks; unusual lumps or swelling in the mouth, head or neck; red patches in the mouth, including the tongue; persistent hoarseness; white patches in the mouth, including the tongue

Ways to reduce the risk of mouth cancer : Eat a healthy diet; reduce alcohol consumption to below 14 units a week; Stop smoking; Using sun protection on your lips: Stop chewing tobacco; Get HPV vaccination (particularly for children and young adults); Regular dental examinations.

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