A BOURNEMOUTH coun-cillor says he is lucky to be alive after a routine dental appointment revealed he had mouth cancer.

Cllr Roger West, 74, says he had no symptoms at all when he went for his six-month check up in April 2008.

“I call it the silent killer. The first sign that something was wrong was when my dentist pressed an area on my lower left jaw and it felt tender,” he said.

“At first he thought there may be a stone lodged in the salivary gland so he referred me to Poole Hospital.”

But following an ultrasound scan and a follow-up examination, Cllr West was signed off.

His dentist Dr Shane McCrea, based at Wootton Lodge Dental Practice in Bournemouth, eventually referred him to Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London.

In January this year, Cllr West underwent a 13-and-a-half-hour operation, which revealed he had mouth cancer.

He had to have a bone and skin graft to rebuild his lower left jaw and now has to be fed through a tube until he learns to eat and drink again.

The operation also affected hearing in his left ear and he is still having radiotherapy.

Now Cllr West is calling for all dentists to be trained to carry out oral cancer checks.

“Fortunately my dentist has a social conscience and still treats NHS patients, but what about those who can’t afford to be seen privately?”

But in spite of his personal experience, Cllr West said he did not support the idea of doctors being named and shamed if they fail to diagnose cancer.

Mouth cancers more common

DR LIDO Badawy, of Madeira Dental Care in Parkstone, said mouth cancers were now as common as cervical cancers.

“All patients should have a thorough soft tissue check as part of their routine dental examination.

“Generally mouth cancers under two cm in diameter have a reasonable prognosis. Mouth cancer is most prevalent in people who drink and smoke.

“It is most commonly seen in the floor of the mouth under the tongue and anyone with red or white patches should seek professional advice via their dentist.”

For more information about the condition and its symptoms see mouthcancerfoundation.org