Sadly the stats are telling us that oral cancer is on the rise – so talking about it is VERY important. ☹️
In Australia, around 4000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Even in our Jannali dental practice, I see a couple of cases a year.
Oral cancer can go un-noticed in its early stages – so recognising the signs and early detection are vital. The good news is that mouth cancers are extremely survivable if they’re caught early.
Education is critical.
✔️ What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer, also known as mouth cancer, describes all cancers that start in and around the mouth. It most commonly occurs on the lips, tongue and floor of the mouth but can also start in the cheeks, gums, the roof of the mouth, the tonsils and even the salivary glands.
It occurs more frequently in men than women and is most likely to strike if you are over 40 years of age.
A key thing is to be aware of any changes that you notice in your mouth. If you are suspicious of anything new, a tongue ulcer that doesn’t seem to heal, or a lump in the side of your cheek – then take action, pick up the phone and call us immediately.
✔️ What are some causes of mouth cancer?
No surprises here but the main risk factors for mouth cancer are tobacco and alcohol consumption. A staggering 59% of mouth cancers in Australia are caused by smoking, and about 31% are caused by excess alcohol consumption.
Other risk factors include a family history of mouth cancers, poor oral hygiene and gum disease, and exposure to the sun and harsh UV rays. ️
However, if you don’t drink, don’t smoke and avoid the sun, you still need to be aware. I once had a patient, a female in her late 30s, non-drinker, non-smoker, who unluckily was diagnosed with mouth cancer. I am happy to report she’s fine now but her treatment was pretty tough. Her initial warning sign was a mouth ulcer that she’d had for over 6 months which just wouldn’t go away.⚠️
✔️ What are the symptoms?
Discovering oral cancer in its earliest stages definitely lessens the severity of the treatment and the impact long term.
It often begins with some pretty recognizable symptoms – but not always. Sometimes the symptoms can seem pretty benign, like a little white spot or red spot in your mouth which you don’t think much about because it doesn’t bleed or doesn’t cause you any discomfort. But if you have something unusual in your mouth, please let us check it out.
Early detection is important, and it can save your life.
Here are some more common symptoms that you should keep an eye out for:
– A sore on the lips, gums, or inside of your mouth that bleeds easily and does not heal
– A lump or thickening in the cheek that you can feel with your tongue
– Loss of feeling or numbness in any part of your mouth
– White or red patches on the gums, tongue or inside of mouth
– Difficulty chewing or swallowing food
– Pain and tenderness.
People who ignore the symptoms or do not seek the help of a professional, risk the cancer advancing to a more serious stage. So if you have any of these symptoms do not ignore them – come and see us.
Because most people simply don’t routinely self-check for oral cancer, dentists are usually the first line of defence when it comes to detection.
That is also another reason why regular dental check-ups are so important.
If we happen to notice any abnormalities during your checkup at Jannali Dental Care, we will be straight onto it. And we might refer you to a specialist for additional tests to confirm any diagnosis.
✔️ How can we prevent mouth cancer?
As we already mentioned, a staggering 59% of mouth cancers in Australia are caused by smoking and around 31% are caused by excessive alcohol consumption. So, I will save you the lecture……but quitting smoking and moderating alcohol consumption will significantly reduce your risk of developing mouth cancer.
Cancers of the lip are commonly associated with UV exposure, so it is also important to protect yourself from the sun when the UV is high. Use sunscreen on your lips – and remember your kids too!
We don’t need to tell you that long days in our hot Aussie sun playing footy or cricket on Jannali Oval over summer can be brutal. ️
So wrapping up this important topic, all we can say is be diligent and aware of all the signs and symptoms.
If you notice any unusual changes in your mouth, please call us now at Jannali Dental Care on (02) 9528 9204 to make an appointment.