April is Oral Cancer Awareness month and it is important to be screened for oral cancer every six months by your dentist. Your dentist can find many pre-cancers and oral cancers early during routine examinations.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer is often used to describe cancers that start in the mouth region. These most commonly occur on the lips, tongue and floor of mouth but can also start in the cheeks, gums, roof of mouth, tonsils and salivary glands.
Symptoms of oral cancer may include
- A lump in your neck
- Swelling or a sore on your lip that won’t heal
- Difficult or painful swallowing
- White or red patches on the mouth tongue or gums
- Changes in speech
Diagnosis of mouth cancer
Your dentist often detects signs of oral cancer. Your dentist is likely to examine your mouth, throat, tongue and cheeks. If signs of oral cancer are present, your dentist may refer you to see a specialist for more tests including x-rays, biopsies or scans.
Treatment for Oral Cancer
Treatment for oral cancer depends on the type of cancer, where it is located and how far it has spread. Treatment may include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Preventing oral cancer
Around 59% of oral cancers in Australia are caused by smoking and 31% caused by large amounts of alcohol consumption, quitting smoker and low alcohol consumption will drastically reduce your risk of developing oral cancer. Cancer of the lips are commonly associated with UV exposure, it is important to protect yourself from the sun when the UV is high.
Regular six monthly visits to your dentist and good oral hygiene is recommended.