Every day, at least three Australians are being diagnosed with oral cancer. “Survival rates for oral cancer remain low despite advances in treatment and this can be attributed to late detection. Recognizing the risk factors and signs of oral cancer is vital to better prognosis and outcomes,” says Chairman of the Australian Dental Association’s Oral Health Committee, Dr Peter Alldritt.
The Australian Dental Association has listed smoking, alcohol, poor diet, sun exposure and Human Papilloma Virus as risk factors for oral cancer.The Oral Cancer Foundation uses its Oral Cancer Awareness Month campaign to raise awareness of oral cancer in the USA.
Dentists screen for oral cancers at routine check-ups. Signs and symptoms can include:
- A sore or lesion in the mouth that does not heal within two weeks.
- A lump or thickening in the cheek.
- A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth.
- A sore throat or a feeling that something is caught in the throat.
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing.
- Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue.
- Numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth.
- Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable.
- Chronic hoarseness.
Treatment of oral cancer can require a multidisciplinary team and may involve surgeons, radiation oncologists, chemotherapy oncologists, dental practitioners, nutritionists, and rehabilitation and restorative specialists. The actual curative treatment modalities are usually surgery and radiation, with chemotherapy added to decrease the possibility of metastasis, to sensitize the malignant cells to radiation, or for those patients who have confirmed distant metastasis of the disease.
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