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GPs offered free course on mouth cancer

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by Cancer Research UK | News

11 January 2006

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Doctors can learn how to help tackle the growing problem of mouth cancer thanks to a new course delivered free by, the educational website for GPs.

The course, developed with Cancer Research UK, is designed to help doctors identify signs and symptoms of mouth cancer and discover more about risk factors, prevention and detection of the disease and its treatment.

Cancer Research UK’s Open Up to Mouth Cancer campaign was launched in November last year. And resulting feedback from GPs showed there was a need to encourage greater awareness of mouth cancer within primary care – as the disease that is now more common in the UK than both cervical and testicular cancer together.

Cases of mouth cancer have risen by a quarter over the last 10 years – from 3411 in 1992 to 4285 in 2001. In 2003 mouth cancer resulted in almost 1600 deaths.

Cancer Research UK’s campaign focuses on detection and awareness of signs and symptoms. Known risk factors for the disease are smoking, alcohol and chewing tobacco or betel nut. Smoking and drinking are together estimated to cause more than 75 per cent of mouth cancer cases in developed countries.

The new free online course on covers different types of mouth cancer which include cancers of the tongue, gums, tonsils, lining of the mouth, lips, oropharynx and hypopharynx.

There are sections, each with question and answer sub-sections, on incidence and survival, risk factors, signs and symptoms, detection and treatment and prevention.

Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said: “This course, developed with OnMedica, gives GPs the opportunity to learn more about how to spot symptoms of mouth cancer early, how to identify those patients at high risk of the disease and offers referral guidelines.”

Sara Hiom, head of health information at Cancer Research UK said: “The good news is that the disease is largely preventable. At least three quarters of mouth cancers could be prevented by stopping smoking and reducing alcohol intake.

“Our new Open Up campaign aims to increase awareness of the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer. Evidence shows that early detection of mouth cancer can significantly improve the chances of successful treatment – raising five-year survival rates from around 50 to 90 per cent.”

The most common signs of mouth cancer are sores, ulcers, red or white patches and unexplained pain in the mouth or ear. Less common signs include a lump in the neck, a persistent sore throat or difficulty swallowing.

Dr Luke Koupparis, Medical Editor at OnMedica, said: “We are delighted to cooperate with Cancer Research UK in educating GPs about this important disease, which can be difficult to detect in primary care. This course is one of over 80 free online educational modules available from”


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