Staging

The stage of disease for mouth cancer at diagnosis has a significant impact on treatment options, morbidity and mortality. 

Mouth cancer stages

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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

Health Professionals

  • 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.


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