The stage of disease for mouth cancer at diagnosis has a significant impact on treatment options, morbidity and mortality.
Mouth cancer stages
In Wales between 2011 and 2013 there were 811 cases of mouth cancer identified, of these the staging is unknown. Of the remaining 600 cases 59% (354) were at stage 4 (the most advanced stage).
Late diagnosis of mouth cancer has been attributed to a number of factors (Reference Factors Associated with Late Diagnosis of Oral Cancer) :
Patient and public
- Not identifying disease because of a lack of awareness of the signs and symptoms of disease
- Failing to attend promptly for medical help, preferring to adopt a “wait and see” approach to symptoms
- Not engaging with medical care systems because of the cost or perceptions that mouth cancer treatments are ineffective
- Not recognising mouth cancer (especially early stage disease)
- Late referrals for care
- Delays in patient care pathways for diagnosis and treatment
It is estimated that diagnostic delays can lead to a worsening in the staging at diagnosis in up to 30% of patients.