Yesterday was World Cancer Day, providing a good opportunity to raise awareness of oral cancer and how you can help minimise your risks of developing this disease.
Oral cancer can affect anyone from young adults right through to the elderly. It can occur on the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, gums, back of the throat or in salivary glands.
Oral cancer is caused by a variety of lifestyle risks, many of which are a part of the lives of the majority of Australians. It is particularly alarming that cases of oral cancer are increasing in younger people, due to exposure to Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted.
Chair of the Australian Dental Association’s Oral Health Committee Dr Peter Alldritt, says: “Every day, at least three Australians are being diagnosed with oral cancer; an insidious, aggressive disease with a survival rate of only 50% over five years. Oral cancer often goes undetected until it is at an advanced stage.”
The signs and symptoms of oral cancer include the following:
- A sore, irritation, lump or thick patch in the mouth, lip or throat
- A chronic ulcer or blood blister in the mouth that does not heal
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue
- Prolonged swollen glands
- A sore throat that does not go away
- Difficulty speaking, or a change in the voice
- Numbness in the tongue or other areas of the mouth
- Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable.
“Smoking, alcohol, poor diet, excess sun exposure, poor oral hygiene and the Human Papilloma Virus all increase a person’s risk of developing oral cancer, says Dr Alldritt. However, simple changes to one’s lifestyle will make a big difference to reducing your risk.”
The ADA advises Australians to:
- Limit alcohol intake
- Quit smoking
- Practice safe oral sex
- Avoid prolonged sun exposure and wear lip balm with SPF sun protection
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables every day
- Maintain good oral hygiene
- Visit the dentist regularly for a check-up – as early detection can reduce the impact of the cancer.
This article first appeared on Australian Dental Association.