SCREENING FOR ORAL CANCER
Nobody likes the “C” word… but cancer is something we must all be vigilant in screening for. Once a year on World Head and Neck Cancer Day, Dental Professionals volunteer at local pharmacies and practices to provide free oral cancer screening. By having routine screening carried out you can reduce the risk of cancer going undiagnosed and potentially save your life. According to the Cancer Council WA website, it is estimated that 4,900 new cases of head and neck cancers were diagnosed last year and they urge Australians to become familiar with common risk factors such as tobacco, alcohol and the human papilloma virus (HPV).
So what are the facts?
- Men are 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with head and neck cancer than woman
- Diagnosis in woman is increasing; Likely due to a change in lifestyle
- Head and Neck Cancer often has no immediate symptoms
- The HPV virus causes Oropharyngeal cancer so it is considered a sexually transmitted disease
What are the risk factors?
There are many risk factors for head and neck cancers including, but not limited to family history, old age, sun exposure and being immunocompromised. The 3 main risk factors involved with head and neck cancers include:
- Alcohol consumption: According to the Cancer Council website, people who regularly consume large quantities of alcohol are 6 times more likely to develop oral cancer as people who do not drink. This includes high alcohol percentages in mouth wash (>15% alcohol)
- Tobacco products: Whether this is smoking cigarettes , pipes, cigars or chewing tobacco it can increase your risk of cancer by 7 times. Smoking also carries the risk of causing other cancers and heart disease. The harmful effects of vaping are still being researched but there is some evidence to suggest that E-cigarettes can also increase your risk of cancer and heart disease
- HPV (Human Papilloma Virus): In particular strain 16, has been linked to Oropharyngeal cancer. This can be transmitted through unprotected sexual activities.
SCREENING AT THE DENTIST
- Routine screening should be carried out by your dentist at least once a year, but ideally you should attend every 6 months
- Your dentist will check your all of your oral tissues for any abnormalities
- If any abnormality is found then you will be referred to an oral pathologist to examine the lesion and take a biopsy if they feel it is necessary
- Often small ulcers or white patches can have innocent causes such as trauma but prevention is always better than treatment so we will always be vigilant with these areas
Be aware of your own mouth at home
If you notice anything abnormal or out of place in your mouth then see your dentist to have it checked. Your dentist will always take your concerns seriously, even if it does turn out to be nothing to worry about. If you notice any of the following, then contact your dentist:
- Ulcers: A normal ulcer will be small and painful but heal in about 14 days. If you find an ulcer that does not go away and it is not painful, then have it checked out
- Red or white patches anywhere in or around your mouth , especially under your tongue
- Abnormal swellings or growths that don’t go away
- Changes in colour– anything that is red, purple, brown…anything that does not look normal
Book a visit and receive a complimentary oral cancer screening on the day.
Call Dental 359 Subiaco on 1300 625 625 now