Mouth cancer warning after ‘healthy’ dad-of-seven tragically dies just months after wedding

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A tragic dad-of-seven who lived a ‘healthy lifestyle’ died after battling an aggressive form of mouth cancer.

Alan Birch did not drink or smoke but was diagnosed with the disease in 2018 forcing medics to remove 90 per cent of his tongue.

The 37-year-old, from Merseyside, underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy before being given the devastating news that no more could be done.

Wife Debbie has urged others to be aware of mouth cancer symptoms

The self-employed plasterer and his partner of 12 years, Debbie McDonough, got married in February after the shocking news before Alan lost his fight for life in April.

Figures from the British Dental Association show that 19 million treatments have been missed due to lockdown sparking concern amongst dentists that others may go undiagnosed, the Liverpool Echo reports.

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 per cent increase compared to a decade ago and a 97 per cent rise since 2000.

Alan’s wife Debbie said: “I would urge people to always keep on top of their dentist appointments as they are the ones who notice the warning signs for mouth and tongue cancer.

“Always be careful of ulcers especially if you have them longer than two weeks, and never think you are wasting an appointment if you are worried about anything.

“It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Alan Birch, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer of the mouth, signs the marriage register with his long-term partner – now wife – Debbie McDonough

Dr Catherine Tannahill, dentist and director of clinical dentistry at Portman Dental Care, 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 per cent survival rate, which is why it is imperative that people continue visiting their dentist for regular check-ups.

“Dentists play a pivotal role in the detection of mouth cancer, as they will always check for the classic signs of the disease during any routine appointment.

“As a dental professional, it was concerning to see through our research how many people were unaware of this.”

According to Dr Tannahill, the most common signs of mouth cancer are mouth ulcers that do not heal in three weeks, unusual lumps or swelling in the mouth, head or neck, and red and white patches within the mouth.

Mouth cancer can appear in the tonsils, the roof or floor of the mouth and in the tongue, and people should regularly check all areas of their mouth.

“There are also a few simple lifestyle changes that people can make that can help reduce the risk of developing mouth cancer,” Dr Tannahill added.

“These include maintaining a healthy diet, reducing drinking alcohol, stopping smoking, using SPF on your lips and of course, visiting the dentist regularly.

“We strongly encourage people to act fast once they spot anything out of the ordinary, as it will vastly increase their chance of combating the disease. Seek advice from a healthcare professional as soon as possible if you have any concerns.

“Sadly, 2,704 people die from mouth cancer every year, but with increased awareness and knowledge, and regular trips to the dentist, we can all help to reduce that number.”

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