NHS Forth Valley Leads the Way in Ground-Breaking Mouth Cancer Research

Forth Valley Royal Hospital has been ranked one of the top 20 hospitals in the UK for recruiting patients for ground-breaking research into treatment for early mouth cancer. Findings show that patients with mouth cancer do benefit from additional surgery, a procedure which could save 21,000 lives a year worldwide.

The results of the study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, conclude that removing the neck glands of patients at the same time as removing their small cancer in the mouth, significantly improves their chances of cure, even if scans have shown no sign of cancer in the neck. It clears up a long-standing medical dilemma which was never sufficiently resolved to satisfy national guidelines.

The study was funded by Cancer Research UK and the facial surgery research foundation Saving Faces. They say this major finding was only possible because of a national surgical collaboration across the UK involving 68 oral and maxillofacial surgeons treating a total of 614 patients. The NHS Forth Valley input was led by Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, Mr Joseph McManners.

He said: “Mouth cancer is often neglected when it comes to research into finding better ways of treating it however it is very important as the results of the disease or its treatment can dramatically affect the patient’s appearance and their ability to eat or speak.

“We now have clarity of an issue which has vexed surgeons for more than 20 years about how best to treat patients with small cancers who may have tiny undetectable deposits in their neck glands. Results show that removing the lymph glands at the same time as the mouth tumour almost halves the chances of the cancer recurring or the patient dying.”

Mouth cancer is the 11th most common cancer and over the past ten years the number of UK cases has increased by 30%. Due to the large number of surgeons involved, the findings are applicable worldwide and researchers believe that reliable evidence about the risks and benefits of removing neck glands in early stage mouth cancer will provide better information to clinicians and patients when discussing treatment options.