When people think of going to the dentist, most cross their fingers that their dentist won’t recommend a filling, but many don’t consider the possibility of oral cancer.
On World Cancer Day (February 4), the Australian Dental Association (ADA) is recommending that Australians schedule regular check-ups with their dentist which should include a screening for oral cancer.
Oral cancer is a potentially fatal disease that can affect all ages, from young adults to the elderly. However, regularly visiting the dentist can increase your chance of early detection.
During a screening, the soft tissues in and around the mouth are visualised and palpated by a dentist to check for cancerous or precancerous lesions. It is one of the most important components of a general dental check-up and should be performed routinely.
World Cancer Day 2019 marks the start of a three-year campaign “I Am and I Will” which aims to empower people to take action and reduce the impact of cancer on themselves and those they love.
ADA President, Dr Carmelo Bonanno advises that “awareness regarding oral cancer is an important message, because unfortunately the overall five-year survival rate for oral cancers is just under 74 per cent”.
“If people notice changes within their mouth, such as a soft tissue ulcer that has been present for multiple weeks, they should seek advice from their dentist. People should be empowered to know and understand what is happening within their mouth,” Dr Bonanno said.
The following actions should be considered when protecting against and screening for oral cancer:
- Use sunscreen or zinc on your lips to protect against UV exposure.
- Reduce your consumption of alcohol.
- Quit the use of tobacco products.
- Attend for regular dental check-ups that include oral cancer screening.
- Receive a HPV vaccination and practise safe sex to decrease your risk from HPV exposure and its involvement in oral cancer formation.
For more information about World Cancer Day, go to www.worldcancerday.org