The tragic case of a Wirral dad-of-seven who lost his battle with an aggressive form of mouth cancer has led to concerns that thousands of cases are going undiagnosed.
Alan Birch, 37, had 90% of his tongue removed when he was diagnosed with mouth cancer in 2018.
Despite Alan undergoing both radiotherapy and chemotherapy, the cancer returned each time and specialists told his devastated family there was nothing more they could do for him.
The news was even more shocking as Alan, a self-employed plasterer from Moreton, lived a healthy, active lifestyle and did not drink or smoke.
It was after learning of the devastating diagnosis that Alan and his partner of 12 years, Debbie McDonough, decided to get married. The wedding ceremony in February was attended by more than 150 family and friends.
Debbie said at the time: “Usually the cancer he has is curable, but he got it in a very aggressive form. Every time they operated, it came back worse.”
After winning hearts across Merseyside, sadly Alan died a few weeks later in April.
Mouth cancer takes more lives than cervical cancer and testicular cancer combined, with 8,722 new cases reported in the UK last year. This is a 58% increase compared to a decade ago and a 97% rise since 2000.
With the latest figures from the British Dental Association showing that 19 million treatments have been missed due to lockdown, dentists are now concerned about the number of cases of mouth cancer that will have potentially gone undiagnosed this year as a result.
But there is still a lack of awareness and knowledge around this type of cancer – something which dentists are keen to continue to try and rectify.
This comes as new research revealed that 52% of people living in the north-west are unaware their dentist will screen them for mouth cancer during a routine check-up. This figure was highest with those aged between 25-35, increasing to 61%.
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Dr Catherine Tannahill, dentist and director of clinical dentistry at Portman Dental Care, which carried out the research, said: “As dentists we see first-hand the impact this disease can have, and that’s why we want to ensure people are aware of what the signs and symptoms are, what to do if they spot an issue and what steps they can take to reduce the risk of developing mouth cancer.
“This is now more important than ever before, as thousands of diagnoses may have potentially been missed this year due to dental practices having to close in initial lockdown, and the subsequent backlog of appointments since.
“While this may sound alarming, early diagnosis of mouth cancer leads to a 90% survival rate, which is why it is imperative that people continue visiting their dentist