East London man given months to live after mistaking tongue cancer for ulcer

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A man from East London was given months to live after a trip to the dentist revealed he had tongue cancer. Despite neither drinking nor smoking, the two most common causes of head and neck cancer, Mr Alan Gilbert, now 71, was diagnosed with mouth cancer in 2018 via a routine trip to the dentist, when a small ulcer was identified on his tongue.

The ulcer began to visibly "grow by the day", Alan, from Walthamstow, said, as he rushed to have a six-hour operation to remove some of his tongue, called a glossectomy. Whipps Cross Hospital said Alan could have the surgery in six weeks. While within the NHS eight week target, Alan opted to go private via The London Clinic to have the surgery in three weeks.

Despite the surgery to remove the cancer, and radiotherapy, the cancer returned in November 2019. Alan was given just six months to live and was offered immunotherapy, he believed, “while on his deathbed”.

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