Risk factors for oral cancer

Risk factors for oral cancer

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that around 5000 Australians will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2021. Oral cancer can occur anywhere within and around the mouth, including the tongue, roof of mouth, cheeks, oropharynx, salivary glands and lips. If it is not identified early, oral cancer can be life threatening and surgery can result in permanent disfigurement. In this blog post, Sydney Park Dental will be sharing some of the most common risk factors for oropharyngeal cancers.

Who does oral cancer affect? 

Oral cancer can affect people of any age, although according to the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) the median age of diagnosis is 65.1 years. It is commonly thought that oral cancer only affects smokers, but this is incorrect as it can also affect those who have never used tobacco. The five year survival rate for mouth cancer is 58.8%, and it is important to visit your dentist regularly so that any potential issues can be identified and treated as early as possible. 

During an oral cancer screening, your dentist will examine the tongue, roof of mouth, underneath the tongue, inside cheeks, oropharynx, salivary glands and lips for any lesions or abnormal cells. These typically present as either white (leukoplakia) or red (erythroplakia) patches. If anything is detected, your dentist will advise you on your options and whether or not treatment may be necessary.

What are the risk factors for oral cancer?

There are a number of risk factors for oral cancer, and the risk increases with age. The following factors may increase your risk of oral cancer:

  • Past or present use of tobacco products
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Extreme sun exposure
  • HPV infection
  • A poor diet lacking in fruit/vegetables
  • Weak immune system

Symptoms of oral cancer

People will typically notice changes within their mouth, and if you observe any of the following you should book an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. 

  • Sores which don’t heal
  • Abnormal lump/growth in the lip, mouth or throat
  • Numbness, pain or bleeding within the mouth
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing
  • Swelling around the jaw
  • Ear or jaw pain

Treatment Options

In the early stages oral cancer is often painless and difficult to see, and some people may be unaware of any issue. Therefore it is important to visit your dentist for routine check-ups, so that any lesions or areas of concern can be identified as early as possible. If something is detected during an oral cancer screen, your dentist may refer you to a specialist. Once the specialist has assessed the lesion, a biopsy will be performed to determine whether it is cancerous. The specialist will be happy to answer any questions you may have, and they will liase with your referring dental professional regarding further treatment. Treatment options will depend on the stage, and may involve surgery and/or radiation therapy. 

Book a Check-up at Sydney Park Dental today

If you have any concerns about your oral health, please don’t hesitate to book an appointment with Sydney Park Dental today. We are a family owned, community focused dental surgery in Erskineville offering the highest level of care. By eliminating or reducing risk factors for oral cancer and attending regular dental appointments, you can minimise your risk of experiencing oral cancer. 

Call today on (02) 8084 7170 to book an appointment. We look forward to seeing you soon.