The early stages of oral cancer often have no symptoms or discomfort so can be hard to detect.
Your dentist and dental hygienist can be your first line of defence against this disease. They are trained to look for the telltale signs. During your regular dental evaluation and cleaning they will perform a quick and painless oral cancer screening. This screening looks for unusual red or white patches or sores inside the mouth, on the tongue, lips and for any swelling in the head and neck region. This type of cancer is most successfully treated when these symptoms are detected early.
What causes oral cancer?
There are a number of factors that can affect your risk. These include:
- Smoking – more than 80% of oral cancers in Australia occur in people who smoke
- Alcohol – heavy drinking, defined as more than four standard drinks on a single occasion, increases your risk of mouth cancers
- Extended exposure of lips to sun
- Poor diet – consuming a diet low in or with no vegetables
- Exposure to HPV (Human Papilloma Virus).
To reduce your risks:
- Stop the use of tobacco and marijuana
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Use a lip balm with a high SPF rating when outdoors and wear a hat.
- Eat a diet high in the consumption of fruit and vegetables
- Reduce your risk of exposure to HPV by practicing safe sex and talk to a health professional about the HPV vaccination
- Brush your teeth twice a day and floss once a day
- Visit your dentist for regular dental evaluations
- Check your mouth regularly for any unusual sores and lesions
Every day, at least three Australians are being diagnosed with oral cancer. Survival rates for oral cancer remain low despite advances in treatment and this can be attributed to late detection. Recognising the risk factors and signs of oral cancer is vital to better prognosis and outcomes
Chairman of the ADA’s Oral Health Committee, Dr Peter Alldritt
If you notice any unusual symptoms or sores in your mouth or on your lips do not delay seeking the advice of a doctor immediately or call our Welcome Desk on (03) 6231 3645 and request an appointment with one of Ian Gurner Dental Care’s highly qualified professionals.
Updated February 2017