Pharmacists are being urged to be aware of patients coming in with potential signs of mouth cancer after it emerged that one in ten would show these symptoms to their pharmacist over a dentist or doctor.

The most common sign of mouth cancer to be shown to a pharmacist is a mouth ulcer that does not heal within two to three weeks.

The research was conducted by the Oral Health Foundation as part of Mouth Cancer Action Month.

Speaking on the findings, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said: “Rather than advising a topical ulcer remedy, which could just mask the symptoms, it is important that pharmacy staff recognise that this could potentially be a sign of mouth cancer.  Before advising a topical remedy, it is essential to ask how long the ulcer has been present for.”

Other major signs of mouth cancer that pharmacists need to be aware of are red or white patches in a person’s mouth and any unusual lumps or bumps around their head or neck.

“By offering quick and accurate advice a pharmacist can play a key role in potentially saving somebody’s life. Early diagnosis transforms a person’s chances of beating the disease from 50 per cent to 90 percent,” Carter said.

Mouth cancer is one of a very small number of cancers which are on the rise. In the UK, cases have increased by 39% in the last decade and by 92% since the 1970s.

“Unfortunately, survival rates have not improved in the last 20 years either, that is why it is vitally important that everyone is more Mouthaware,” the Oral Health Foundation said.