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  • Writer's picturerymerws

Mouth Cancer Awareness 2022

Cathal O’Grady is a former Olympic heavyweight boxer. He was part of the Irish contingent that travelled to Atlanta in 1996, and he is man well accustomed to putting up a fight. A fit active man whose physicality and health is his bread and butter. He has more recently been involved in establishing white collar boxing and introducing the sport to a whole new demographic.

Cathal O'Grady in Atlanta

Fast forward 20 years, and Cathal was suddenly back in the fight of his life. This wasn’t for an Olympic medal or for public adoration. Now he was fighting for his life.

Cathal had presented to his regular dentist for a check up and the dentist asked him how long he had the lump in his mouth. “I didn’t even know I had a lump.” Cathal stated. He never felt anything, there was no pain or discomfort at all. The dentist was able to show him the limp, but even then, whilst he could see it, it was of little concern.

That was it a simple dental exam and that meant an early diagnosis. Cathal had mouth cancer, and he was now facing into 35 radiotherapy sessions ad major surgery to remove parts of the soft palate and major part of the jawbone on the left-hand side.

Fortunately, having had this picked up early by the dentist Cathal had been given a better prognosis than most. “A lot of people don’t have that opportunity. It’s just a cancer diagnosis and the rest is just downhill and horrible.

“I was given, by my dentist, an opportunity to go through a little bit of a rough period for a time but then come out the other end."

Cathal feels incredibly lucky to have come through his battle, and he feels that the whole experience has made him more resilient and compassionate. 5 years cancer free now, he feels fortunate that he doesn’t really think about it now daily.

In Ireland 700 people are diagnosed with Head and Neck cancer every year. Cathal feels that the best form of protection is to make sure you are getting regular check-ups. “Initial changes could be like a lump in your mouth,” he said.

“It could be a red or white patch. It could be a cold sore or a mouth ulcer that doesn’t go away.”

Cathal is a living example of why it is so important to get regular dental screenings. Your dentist is constantly on the lookout for the signs and symptoms of oral cancer, these can include:

• An ulcer in your mouth that does not heal

• White or red patches

• A lump in the mouth or neck

• Thickening or hardening of the cheek or tongue

• Difficulty chewing or swallowing

• Numbness

• A persistent sore throat

• Persistent nosebleeds and a stuffy nose

• Unexplained loose teeth

Please remember to get checked regularly. Cancer affects 1 in 3 people in Ireland, and 700 people will be diagnosed with head and neck cancer this year.

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