Warning after death of dad, aged 37, from cancer

People are warned to keep their appointments after the death of a father just 37 years old who led a healthy lifestyle and did not drink or smoke.

Alan Birch, 37, died of oral cancer – and a dentist has now warned that many others could face a tragic diagnosis.

Alan had 90 percent of his tongue removed when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2018.

The shock diagnosis came despite the fact that Alan was neither a smoker nor a drinker and led an independent, healthy, and active life as a self-employed plasterer, reported The echo.

Alan and his partner Debbie McDonough were married in February of that year. Alan died in April.

A warning has now been issued that others need to know what happened.

Debbie said, “Usually the cancer he has is curable, but he got it in a very aggressive form. Every time they had an operation it got worse.”

Father of seven, Alan Birch, pictured with partner Debbie (Image: Liverpool Echo)

Oral cancer claims more lives than cervical cancer and testicular cancer combined. 8,722 new cases were reported in the UK last year. This is a 58% increase over a decade and a 97% increase since 2000.

Many cases are intercepted by dentists who are now routinely checking for signs of oral cancer during checkups.

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Alan Birch and Debbie McDonough on their wedding day in February (Image: Joe Hague Photography)

However, according to the British Dental Association, 19 million treatments have been missed due to a lockdown.

Dr. Catherine Tannahill, Dentist and Director of Clinical Dentistry at Portman Dental Care, said, “As dentists, we see firsthand the effects this disease can have and so we want to make sure people know what the signs and symptoms are, what to do when they identify a problem and what steps they can take to reduce the risk of oral cancer.

“This is more important now than ever as thousands of diagnoses may have been missed this year as dental offices closed when they first closed and appointments have been lagging since then.

“While this may sound alarming, early detection of oral cancer results in a 90% survival rate, so it’s imperative that people keep seeing their dentist regularly.

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Alan Birch led a healthy, active lifestyle before he was diagnosed with the fatal disease (Image: Liverpool Echo)

“Dentists play a crucial role in detecting oral cancer because they always look for the classic signs of the disease at each routine appointment. As a dentist, it was important through our research to find out how many people were unaware of it.

“The most common signs of oral cancer are mouth ulcers that don’t heal within three weeks, unusual lumps or swelling in the mouth, head, or neck, and red and white spots in the mouth. Oral cancer can appear in the tonsils and on the roof or bottom of the mouth and in the tongue, so it is important for people to thoroughly check all areas of their mouth.

“There are also some simple lifestyle changes people can make to reduce their risk of oral cancer. These include maintaining a healthy diet, reducing alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, using sun protection on lips, and of course, visiting at the dentist regularly.

“We strongly encourage people to act quickly if they discover something out of the ordinary, as this will greatly increase their chance of fighting the disease. If you have any concerns, seek medical advice as soon as possible.

“Unfortunately, 2,704 people die from oral cancer every year, but with awareness and knowledge and regular dental visits we can all help to reduce that number.”

More information and advice on oral cancer can be found here Here.


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