A MAN who was vigilant with a lump in his neck is urging others to visit their dentist regularly and talk about concerns they have ahead of mouth cancer action month.

Derek Hornby, from Penketh, is a non-smoker and does not drink heavily but was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his mouth last year.

In July 2017, Derek visited his dentist Stephen Porter for a routine scrape and polish but had noticed a lump in his neck for three weeks. By chance, he had been for a skin check having suffered from a basal cell carcinoma five years previously and mentioned it to his GP.

Derek thought it was to do with a recent filling and told the dentist about the lump.

The 59-year-old was referred to the head and neck clinic and seen by professor James Brown within 10 days.

He had a nasoendoscopy, an X-ray of his jaw and an ultrasound of his neck. The lump had since swollen and Derek was put on antibiotics for two weeks to rule out an infection.

Two weeks later, a biopsy of the lump was taken and Derek received a call one week later to say part of the sample looked 'hazy' and this was the first mention of cancer.

Derek was referred to Aintree Hospital and another camera was inserted up his nose. An MRI scan and a PET scan came back clear.

The team decided to remove the lump and perform a full biopsy once it had been taken out which resulted in a full neck dissection.

Derek said: "I wasn't great when I woke up, the team had a chat with me and I was told it was cancerous.

"I had my tonsil lasered out and a biopsy taken of the back of my tongue."

He underwent two rounds of chemotherapy and 33 sessions of radiotherapy.

Doctors were pleased with how Derek kept fit by eating healthily and exercising.

The following July, Derek had another PET scan and was told he was in remission.

"I knew I was probably going to be clear but it is better when it said to you," he added.

Derek continues to have check ups with his consultant. He said: "My neck is still really stiff and I'm still bewildered by it all – I was skinned alive. What you go through is horrendous, the weight dropped off me, I had a big rash on my back and lost my taste but the support I've had has been fantastic.

"Luckily I have always gone to the dentist and looked after my teeth and my consultant was happy with how I got on high-powered protein shakes when I got my taste back.

"The treatment finished in November but the side effects peaked two weeks later.

"I live on my own but I had to fight it, I had to force down cereal.

"I owe Stephen and Hilary a lot. I would just urge everyone to take all the advice from doctors.

"With men I think they are sometimes embarrassed to mention pain to a dentist and doctor. I have a friend who left a pain at the back of his jaw for months and it turned out to be cancer.

"It mentally and physically slaughters you and strips you of a personality – I didn't even want friends coming round."

Mr Porter, Derek's dentist, said: "Dentists now look for signs and lumps of mouth cancer. It is quite uncommon but last year I had a female patient who had a white patch on the side of her tongue which turned out to be pre-cancerous cells.

"Your dentist is best placed to pick these things up at an early stage and the more regularly you attend the more likely they are to find it while it is treatable.

"Last year, 110 patients visited the free drop-in clinic and we detected a cancer at the back of one man's mouth who had experienced problems swallowing. He had dentures and so didn't go to the dentist, even if you don't have teeth you should have an oral examination at least once a year."

Warrington Hospital is offering free mouth cancer screenings on Wednesday, November 14 as part of mouth cancer action month.


The checks are simple

It aims to raise awareness of the issues surrounding the condition and also the symptoms that people should look out for.

These include:

  • A feeling that something is caught in your throat
  • A numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth
  • A chronic sore throat or hoarseness that persists more than six weeks
  • An ulcer or white or red patch anywhere in the mouth that does not heal within three weeks
  • A lump or swelling in the mouth, jaw or neck that persists for more than three weeks
  • A difficulty in swallowing, chewing or moving the jaw or tongue
  • An unexplained loosening of the teeth with no dental cause

No appointment is necessary just drop in the department in the Appleton Wing between 9am and 12pm or 1pm and 4.30pm.

Free parking is available to anyone visiting the clinic, simply hand in you registration number to a member of the team.