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Dartford man calls for lessons to be learned after mouth cancer undiagnosed for 8 months

PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 November 2018

A Dartford man has called for lessons to be learned after his mouth cancer went undetected for eight months despite several trips to the three dentists. Picture: Gary Rasmussen

A Dartford man has called for lessons to be learned after his mouth cancer went undetected for eight months despite several trips to the three dentists. Picture: Gary Rasmussen

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A Dartford man has called for lessons to be learned after his mouth cancer went undetected for eight months despite several trips to the three dentists.

Gary Rasmussen, who was 61 at the time, developed a lesion inside his mouth which continued to get larger and more painful.

He sought medical advice several times and his disease was not diagnosed until he insisted that a biopsy was carried out.

The biopsy diagnosed an aggressive malignant tumour.

Gary required 14 hours in surgery and six weeks of chemo-radiotherapy following the diagnosis.

He also required bone reconstruction and skin grafts from his wrist and abdomen to repair scar tissue.

Following his treatment, Gary, who has fortunately recovered from the cancer, instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the care he received.

Gary, a former butler, is now using Mouth Cancer Action Month to call on health and dental professionals to do more to spot the condition at the earliest opportunity.

It comes after Irwin Mitchell secured Gary a six-figure settlement regarding the delay in his diagnosis.

Emma Wagstaff, the specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office representing Gary, said: “As with all forms of the disease, early detection is key to beating mouth cancer.

“The fact that Gary’s condition was not diagnosed for in excess of eight months is extremely worrying.

“Mouth Cancer Action Month is an important time to put a spotlight on the issue, and Gary’s experience shows that there remains much to be done to increase awareness of the condition.

“However, it is important that there is not a loss of confidence in the health service. People displaying the possible symptoms of oral cancer should seek medical advice at the earliest opportunity.”

Gary’s first dental appointment regarding the lesion was in April 2013.

He was advised the lesion was an ulcer caused by cheek biting which would heal with the use of pain relief mouth gel.

After there was no improvement, he was seen by another dentist at the same practice who suggested the issue may have been caused by his wisdom teeth.

Following further consultation he had his upper right wisdom tooth removed in August.

However, with the lesion getting larger, he once again sought medical help and had his lower right wisdom tooth extracted.

In November 2013, Gary saw a dentist again and insisted on being referred for a biopsy, which confirmed he had mouth cancer.

Gary said: “I had always been anxious about the dentist due to my fear of needles and while I was surprised they weren’t concerned by the lesion, I just trusted that they knew what they were doing.

“I completely broke down when I got the news of my diagnosis, as it felt like all of my concerns across the months had just been ignored.

“While I feel lucky to be alive, everything I have been through has had a far reaching and lasting impact.

“I had 14 hours of surgery, which included the removal of the tumour, part of my jaw and five teeth. I also had six weeks of chemo-radiotherapy which was absolute hell as I was in pain, suffered vomiting and sores in my mouth.

“My weight plummeted to eight stone.”

Gary has also suffered loss of senses, including hearing and taste.

He has scarring on his face, head, neck and left arm and struggles to swallow food because of a narrowed oesophagus.

He also has lost feeling on the parts of his body where the surgery took place.

Gary added: “It has been an incredibly difficult few years. What happened has had a major psychological impact on my life and my social life has also suffered.

“I don’t know whether I’ll ever get over the fact that the cancer should have been spotted sooner.

“I felt it was hugely important to speak out during Mouth Cancer Action Month, as the issues I’ve faced should not happen again.

“My message to anyone who is concerned about persistent oral problems to question whether it could be mouth cancer and to be relentless in ensuring that you are seen and treated appropriately.”

Co-Founder of the Mouth Cancer Foundation Krishan Joshi said: “The Mouth Cancer Foundation believe in saving and improving lives.

“Cases such as Gary’s highlight the importance of our message and why it is vital to raise awareness of the disease so that health professionals are vigilant when performing routine checks.”

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