Monday 4th February is World Cancer Day, raising awareness of cancer warning signs and early detection that can sometimes be life-saving.
Oral cancer (mouth cancer) is one of the most common types of cancer, but it’s still not widely known about. Find out what you need to know about this disease and how keeping up with your regular dental check-ups can be vital for early detection and intervention.
What is oral cancer?
Like other cancers, oral cancer develops due to abnormal cell growth. In this case, these cells are in the soft tissues of the mouth – usually the lips, tongue or floor of the mouth, but sometimes in the roof of the mouth, cheeks, gums, tonsils or salivary glands.
Who is at risk?
Oral cancer can affect people of all ages, from children to seniors. The risk of developing mouth cancers is higher if you have a family history of the disease or certain health conditions including the human papillomavirus (HPV) or Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).
Oral cancer risk is also increased by lifestyle factors including:
- poor oral hygiene and gum disease
- poor diet and nutrition
- smoking or tobacco use
- drinking excessive alcohol
- sun exposure (particularly for lip cancer)
Making changes to your dietary and lifestyle habits can lower your risk of developing mouth cancer.
What are the symptoms of oral cancer?
There are not always obvious signs of oral cancer, which is why regular screenings by your dentist are so important. By the time symptoms are noticed, the cancer may already be in an advanced stage and more difficult to treat.
Possible oral cancer symptoms include:
- a white, red or sore patch in your mouth or on your lip or throat
- numb, swollen or bleeding mouth
- mouth ulcers or swollen glands that don’t heal
- persistent sore or blocked throat
- difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking
- teeth feeling loose
- weight loss
These symptoms may be related to a different problem, but it’s still recommended that you visit a dentist if you notice anything unusual about your mouth.
How can your dentist help?
When you visit your dentist for your regular check-up, they may offer an oral cancer screening or you may request one. This screening is painless and can be completed after your oral health assessment and teeth cleaning.
If your dentist notices a possible indication that oral cancer may be present, they will refer you to a specialist for further tests. The sooner oral cancer is diagnosed and treatment can begin, the more likely it can be removed. Depending on the size and type of cancer, treatment options may include radiotherapy, chemotherapy or palliative care to help manage the symptoms.
Get an oral cancer screening in Erskineville
If you’re worried about oral cancer or you just want a screening to put your mind at ease, make an appointment at Sydney Park Dental. We’re currently offering an initial check-up and clean for $175 which includes oral cancer detection.
For more information or to make an appointment at our Erskineville dental clinic, call (02) 8084 7170 or book an appointment online.
Healthdirect. Mouth cancer [Online] 2018 [Accessed January 2019] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/mouth-cancer