It's the diagnosis that no dentist or doctor wants to give, and that no patient wants to hear. But for more than 5000 Australians every year, finding out they have oral cancer is a reality. Most people visit the dentist to have their teeth and gums checked, without realising that checking for potential oral cancer is also an important part of any dental check-up.
There's a number of things which can increase your risk, but the vast majority of oral cancers in Australia are caused by 2 things:
With smoking being the most popular way of using tobacco in Australia, did you know it's responsible for around 60% of all oral cancers. Excessive alcohol consumption then makes up another 30% of oral cancer cases. Combine the two and you're really taking a risk. That's somewhere close to 90% of all oral cancers in Australia caused by cigarettes and alcohol alone.
The simplest way to reduce your risk is to ditch the cigarettes and moderate your drinking. The current Australian guidelines recommend you consume no more than 2 standard drinks on any day, and there's no "safe" level of smoking.
So you don't drink or smoke, what else can you do to minimise your risk?
- Use an SPF lip balm daily will protect your lips.
- Make sure your vaccinations are up to date, including the Human Papillomavirus, (regular immunisation schedule for kids around age 12-13).
The rest of the oral cancer cases can be attributed to UV exposure, primarily the lips, (those cricketers are onto something with their zinc cream). While there's also some people who develop oral cancer related to contracting certain viruses, and people with diagnosed weakened immune systems.
Early detection is vital in the successful treatment of oral cancer, and your dental professional is in the ideal position to help identify any lumps, bumps, ulcers, growths, or discolouration’s that shouldn't be there. Turns out that your regular dental check-ups aren't just about checking for decay and feeling guilty about not flossing, it could save your life!