Almost half of the patients diagnosed with mouth cancer this year in Bahrain have died – prompting health professionals to emphasise the need for more awareness to promote early detection, prevention and treatment.
Local research found that 85 per cent of the respondents believed that more efforts were needed to raise awareness of the issue.
Out of the 18 cases of oral cancer diagnosed so far this year, seven individuals died, revealed Budaiya Health Centre dentist Dr Safiya Al Mosawi, during the Mouth Cancer Awareness Day 2022 conference yesterday.
Organised by the Crown Prince Centre for Training and Medical Research in collaboration with the BDF Royal Medical Services, the conference was held under the patronage of Commander Major General Professor Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa.
“We have the least number of cases in the region but still cancer is aggressive and has a high mortality rate,” said Dr Al Mosawi.
“I conducted a survey – from October 27 to November 21 – of 713 individuals of both genders, all age groups and educational backgrounds to measure levels of public awareness.
“Most of the participants were females (70pc) while the rest were male and of those a total of 70.6pc had a college degree.”
According to Dr Al Mosawi, 68pc of respondents were aware of oral cancer while 32pc said they hadn’t heard of it.
Meanwhile, 66pc said they believed oral cancer was preventable, 2pc didn’t think so while 32pc ‘had no idea’ while 62pc said the disease was curable, 2pc said no and 36pc had ‘no idea’.
“I asked participants what they would do if they found a small ulcer in their mouth and most of them (47pc) said that they would wait until it disappeared and not seek medical attention,” she added.
“Oral cancer can be prevented if found in the pre-malignant lesion phase, and early treatment has lower mortality rates.
“Most people are aware that smoking and alcohol consumption are risk factors but there is a lack of awareness about other risk factors such as radiation, poor diet and aging.”
Dr Al Mosawi said that 85pc of the respondents demonstrated high levels of awareness, though more efforts were needed to extend the reach into the community to include more men and those with lower education levels.
Primary Health Care dental consultant Dr Layla Al Asfoor informed that oral cancer was the sixth most common form of cancer globally.
“Preventive measures and screening methods to detect oral cancer at an early stage is intended to reduce the diagnosis delay which in most cases could save patients’ lives,” she said.
“My study aimed to evaluate the awareness of oral cancer and its related knowledge among primary health care employees and perceptions regarding risk factors with references to early diagnosis prevention and referral.
“It was shocking to find that 48pc of the respondents were from the dental field when members across the specialties were invited to take part such as nurses, lab technicians, physiotherapists, dental hygienists and other specialities.
“Members of all specialities are necessary because we need to increase awareness regarding oral cancer within the society as these professionals have families, neighbours and friends among whom they can raise awareness.
“My research revealed that only 64pc of primary health care workers that took part in the survey were fully and accurately aware of oral cancer.”
She said that regular workshops and campaigns that involve clinical training in oral cancer screening as well as printed-material provided at health centres is essential to raise awareness.
She also added that including oral cancer screening in the dental visit sheet as well as conducting an annual activity for oral cancer screening for specific groups is also necessary.
“It is important to note that a screening test is not intended to be diagnostic but aims to capture patients with such abnormal findings and accelerate the referral and application of more specific diagnostic procedures by a specialist,” she added.
Oral cancer can occur on the lips, gums, tongue, inner lining of the cheeks, roof and floor of the mouth and includes symptoms such as a sore that doesn’t heal, patches on the inside of the mouth, loose teeth, a growth or lump inside the mouth, mouth and ear pain as well as difficult to painful swallowing.
Factors that can increase the risk of mouth cancer include tobacco use of any kind such as cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing and others as well as heavy alcohol use, excessive sun exposure to the lips, a sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus and a weakened immune system.