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Mouth Cancer Month 2014: Derry residents take advantage of free oral health checks at Creggan Healthy Living Centre


“Around 200 people in Northern Ireland each year are diagnosed with mouth cancer and more people are dying from mouth cancer than from cervical and testicular cancer combined.”

This was one of the key messages from the Mayor of Derry, Brenda Stevenson, at the recent Focus on Mouth Cancer event held in Derry/Londonderry at the Old Library Trust Healthy Living Centre (HLC).

Welcoming the event to the city Mayor Stevenson said “I am delighted to see so many people here at the Creggan Healthy Living Centre to take advantage of the free advice, oral health checks and general health checks on offer. It is clear from the great turnout here today that by bringing health improvement initiatives in to the heart of our local communities local people can avail of vital services on their doorstep. The Focus on Mouth Cancer event also provides the opportunity to make use of the modern dental suite and I would like to thank the dental experts who are working on-site today to make this all happen.”

In addition to the oral health checks Cancer Focus Northern Ireland brought two of its mobile health check units, the Keeping Well vans, to the city. Local residents participated in the many general health checks and the one-to-one cancer awareness sessions on offer free of charge throughout the day.

Opening the event Leeann Monk, Programme Planner at the Old Library Trust HLC, said: “I am proud to see so many people attending our facility today. Whilst our main focus is mouth cancer there are wider benefits from the involvement of our community partners. The Drink Think initiative can advise on responsible thinking around sensible drinking and the staff from SWEET are on hand to provide useful suggestions on a healthy diet. By working together in this way we can fulfil our desire to improve all aspects of health within our community.”

Health advice provided link directly to the key risk factors for mouth cancer which are smoking, drinking large amounts of alcohol, the human papilloma virus (HPV) and over exposure to sunshine or use of sunbeds.

Praising the staff from a wide range of statutory, voluntary and community organisations Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention for Cancer Focus NI, said: “This is the first time we have brought both mobile units to the city and, given the great attendance at our health checks today, I would hope to bring them back again. The Focus on Mouth Cancer event has provided the opportunity to launch our new public information materials on Mouth Cancer. Cancer Focus NI’s mission is to raise awareness of cancer and like many cancers, the earlier mouth cancer is diagnosed, the better the survival rate. Events like today highlight that many cancers can be prevented if we make healthy lifestyle choices. By reaching out in the community today Cancer Focus NI can help people to recognise the early signs of cancer, make those healthy lifestyle choices and encourage then to take up the oral cancer checks in a location convenient to them.”

Members of the public found out about the support available for quitting smoking from smoking cessation experts and from local pharmacist Killian Johnston from Sweeny’s Pharmacy in the city.

Whilst aimed at the general public, representatives from the dental profession and community staff from across Northern Ireland were in attendance. Michael Donaldson, Head of Dental Services at the Health and Social Care Board, stressed the importance of early diagnosis in combating oral cancer: “By enabling as many people as possible to take up these oral health checks we are highlighting the key role of the dental team in early detection of oral cancer which ultimately can help save lives. Mouth cancer is a general term for cancer of the mouth, including the lip, gums, throat and tongue with the lining of the mouth being the most common site for the cancer. When mouth cancer is spotted early the chances of a complete cure are good. If cancerous lesions are small, treatment is generally less complicated and much more effective.”

Closing the launch Donncha O’Carolan, Regional Lead on Dental Public Health, thanked everyone involved, “Focus on Mouth Cancer is a joint initiative between the Health and Social Care Board, the Public Health Agency, Cancer Focus NI and the Old Library Trust Healthy Living Centre. By joining forces and combining our efforts and resources we can raise awareness of mouth cancer and make a difference by saving lives through early detection and prevention.”

The Focus on Mouth Cancer information leaflet launched yesterday is available online at www.cancerfocusni.org  Cancer Focus Northern Ireland provides information and support to people worried about, or affected by cancer. For advice contact their Information and Support Helpline on 0800 783 3339 which is available free from a landline from Monday to Friday, 9am to 1pm, or by email at helpline@cancerfocusni.org 

For information and useful tips to stop smoking, visit the Public Health Agency’s ‘Want 2 Stop’ website at www.want2stop.info and use the online chat service or order a ‘Quit Kit’ free of charge. Alternatively, you can contact the Cancer Focus NI Smokers’ Helpline on 0808 812 8008, text the word ‘Quit’ to 70004, or check out the Want 2 Stop Facebook page.