Oral Cancer Screening

Through an aging population with increased life expectancy, the percentage of people with cancer is increasing. Head and neck cancer is the 7th most commonly occurring cancer in Australia, however 5 year survival rates are improving. Early detection of suspicious lesions can be the most effective method to improve survival and quality of life for oral cancer patients.

Although the risk is low for the general population, the team at our Thornbury dental practice acknowledge the severity of the disease and oral cancer screening will be performed at both initial and routine exams. This involves checking for any predisposing factors and looking and feeling over the skin of your mouth, your tongue, soft palate and perhaps neck for any irregularities with the tissues.

By having biannual check ups, which are mostly covered under many insurance plans, we can ensure the skin of your mouth and neck stays healthy. However, if something unusual is found a small biopsy may be required to further examine the tissue.

What to look out for – have a good look in the mirror at the skin of your mouth today. Note the lips, the cheeks, the tongue, the hard and soft palate and the floor of your mouth, as it is important to know what it looks like now. This gives another safeguard on top regular checks by your dentist. Potential signs and symptoms include:

  • A persistent mouth sore or ulcer

  • Persistent mouth pain

  • A white or red patch on the skin of the mouth

  • Difficulty swallowing, chewing, moving the jaw or tongue

  • A lump or thickening of the skin of the mouth

How to try to prevent oral cancer – along with routine biannual check ups, there are other ways to lower your risk. Tobacco products and alcohol cause the majority of oral cancers, especially when the two are taken together. Other factors that increase your risk can include UV exposure, HPV infection and immune system suppression. A healthy and balanced diet is also important in decreasing oral cancer risk.

There is no more effective way to improve both your oral health and your general health than giving up smoking. Speak to one of our staff members at The Northside Dentist to enquire about smoking cessation.