Dentist warns of Covid danger as patients diagnosed with mouth cancer

Medical photo created by senivpetro -

A LEADING Limerick dentist has expressed concern about delays in diagnosing cancers and other conditions due to Covid-19 after two of his patients were diagnosed with mouth cancer in the three weeks since reopening his practice.

Dr Robert Bowe, of Bowe Dental Clinic in Roxboro and Foynes, said that while Ireland locked down for good reason, there will be a cost for not acting on issues early on. He advises patients not to ignore warning signs and check up on any unusual symptoms with their GP, dentist or other medical practitioner.

He also called on government for a major public awareness campaign around encouraging people to immediately seek an appointment with their GP, dentist or other medical practitioners in the same way they would have done prior to Covid-19.

He was commenting after discovering two mouth cancer cases in the first three weeks of returning to work – double the number detected across the previous eight years.

“If you have an ulcer in the mouth that does not go away after two weeks get your dentist or doctor to look at it. If it does not heal, get it checked out. Most will be easily treated, but if you’ve got a more serious problem, it’s much better to catch it earlier than later,” he advised.

“I would usually see one cancer case every eight years, but I’ve just seen two in three weeks. One of these cases was a non-healing ulcer and the other was a blood cancer, a lymphoma had presented in the mouth.

“I saw a lady who had an unusual infection around a tooth extraction, and I referred her in to get it checked out, but her appointment kept getting rescheduled by the hospital due to Covid-19. She came back to me and I saw the lesion had grown so I rang the consultant and she was booked in the next day, biopsied immediately and now has a treatment plan with a haematologist.

“Both patients are now receiving treatment and have a very positive outlook.”

“If I am seeing two cancers in three weeks, how many other cancers are walking around undiagnosed?” he asked.

Dr. Bowe said he did not believe this was a coincidence and expressed concerns for an unprecedented surge in reported cancers over the coming months because people have put their health on hold.

“People might have found a problem but have been afraid to seek help, or assume services aren’t available. We’ve all made a lot of sacrifices to flatten the Covid curve, but when it comes to other health conditions, it’s time to get going again. Catching problems earlier leads to much better results.

“The HSE should immediately launch a campaign encouraging people to go to their GP, dentist or other medical practitioner if they have a problem. We have to persuade them that unprecedented levels of care are being taken to make sure the patient is protected from any potential spread of the virus,” he added.