For the first time, free screenings for mouth cancer are available on Cayman Brac.

The Cayman Islands Cancer Society has been offering free mouth cancer screenings on Grand Cayman for years. Jennifer Weber, operations manager at the Cancer Society, said during the charity’s public health fair on the Brac over the weekend, it offered sign-ups for screening on the island with Health Services Authority dentist Dr. George David.

Anyone can request a screening through the Cancer Society, which will arrange for one to be done for free.

“In previous years, all our mouth cancer patients who came to CICS for help, were diagnosed at stage 4 and all were from Grand Cayman. Now, thanks to this screening programme started by Dr. Keelin Fox, cancers are being caught and treated earlier,” Weber said. “It’s one more example of how early detection saves lives across the Cayman Islands.”

She said dentists play a key role to play in the early detection of mouth cancer.

“When you attend your dentist, a mouth cancer examination is usually part of your routine dental check-up even though you may not realise it,” Weber said. “The examination is quick and painless. Like with all cancers early detection greatly improves the chances of survival.

“So as a general rule when in doubt, get it checked out. And if you have any of the symptoms… that persist for more than three weeks, it is important that you seek advice from a dentist or doctor.”

Head and neck cancers account for approximately 4% of all cancers in the United States and globally for more than 330,000 deaths annually. Head and neck cancers are diagnosed more often among people aged over 50 but there are increasing reports of these cancers in younger people in the last few years, according to the US National Cancer Institute.

Head and neck cancers used to be six times more common in men, but the number of cases in women is increasing to where males are now just twice as likely to develop these cancers. The overall trend is that these cancers are increasing and the case numbers are set to increase by 30% in the next 25 years.

These types of cancers can be caused by a variety of factors, like smoking, betel quid chewing, alcohol, and viruses like Epstein-Barr or the human papillomavirus (HPV), the latter which may be passed on through sexual contact, including oral sex. UV exposure from the sun or tanning beds is also a risk factor, as is a poor diet in which a person does not eat enough fruit and vegetables.

The most common type of mouth, head and neck cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. Other types of mouth, head and neck cancer that may occur include lymphomas, salivary gland tumours, melanomas and sarcomas.

“It is important to be aware of head and neck cancers and everybody is encouraged to know what is normal in their own body through regular self-check exams,” the Cayman Islands Cancer Society said in a statement.

Symptoms of mouth, head and neck cancer may include:

  • A sore or ulcer in your mouth that does not heal
  • White or red patches inside the mouth
  • A lump in the mouth or neck
  • Thickening or hardening of the cheek or tongue
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing or moving the tongue
  • Numbness of the tongue or face
  • A persistent sore throat and hoarseness
  • Persistent nosebleeds and a stuffy nose
  • Unexplained loose teeth

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