The Ministry of Health  said yesterday that risk  factors for oral cancers have an indirect impact on spreading COVID -19

In a  message to mark World Head and Neck Cancer Day, the MOH said that touching the mouth with the hand and spitting habits are intermingled with smoking and betel chewing and moreover, interchanging cigarettes and ingredients in the betel quid will enhance the spread of COVID -19 infection.

"Due to the harmful effects of smoking on lungs, heart and other organs of the body these is more chance of getting complications due to COVID-19 infection," the MOH said.

The Ministry said that Oral cancer is the second most common type of cancer among Sri Lankans and the commonest cancer among Sri Lankan males.

"Everyday six new patients are identified with oral cancer while this type of cancer accounts for 2 to 3 deaths per day with the second highest mortality ratio among cancer deaths reported among males.

"Currently 70% of the oral cancers are reported at a late stage (in IIIrd and IVth stages) which limits the possibility of getting a good outcome for the patient," the MOH said.

The main risk factors of oral cancer are using betel quid, tobacco and areca nut related products, smoking and alcohol. In Sri Lanka 45.7% of males and 5.3% of females use some type of a tobacco product (smoke / smokeless) (Step Survey 2015- Report) Also 34.8% of males and 0.5% of females use alcohol. (Step Survey 2015- Report).

Estate workers, drivers, fishermen, mine- workers, construction workers, security guards and farmers have pronounced indulgence in risk factors causing oral cancer. Moreover, the prevalence of Oral Potentially Malignant Disorders (OPMD) and oral cancer are higher among them.

Most of the time precancerous conditions or lesions occur in the mouth prior to getting an oral cancer. Precancers and cancers at the initial stage, could be identified through a self-mouth examination or a professional clinical oral examination.

The MOH recommends that if  risk habits are present to ,  once a month self-mouth examination and once in six  months clinical oral examination is recommended.  

Warning signs of OPMD and oral cancer could have the below mentioned manifestations. Within the mouth - Abnormal  growth, Non-healing wound / ulcer that persists for more than 2 weeks, white, red or white / red mixed lesions, Unusual whitish appearance instead of normal pinkish colour , restricted mouth opening or restricted tongue movements and abnormal burning sensation of mouth when taking spicy foods.

The MOH said that prompt treatment following identification and abstaining from risk habits will prevent a majority of OPMD’s transforming into oral cancers.

Treatment success of oral cancer identified at early stages is much better when compared with oral cancers identified at late stages.

"If any changes inside the mouth are identified, strict adherence to treatment / follow up clinics as well as abstaining from risk habits are vital for successful treatment."

The MOH said that there is an island wide network of services providing treatment for oral cancers in Sri Lanka.

Health Minister Pavitra Wanniarachchi