Oral cancer is a term used to describe cancers of the mouth (tongue, floor of mouth, palate, cheeks, gums). Cancers may also affect lips, salivary glands and tonsils.
Oral cancer is on the increase. From 1990 the number of cases have risen 25-30% for women and men respectively.
A part of the dental examination appointment is a screening of the oral soft tissues for ANY abnormality. Medical history questionnaires are updated regularly for identification of risk factors. More often, soft tissue lesions are innocent. Some however, require further investigation (biopsy) in hospital for precise diagnosis and management. Therefore, if anything unusual is noticed, you will be referred to the local Oral and Maxillofacial Hospital Department for this.
The cause of an oral cancer is usually a combination of some of the following.
- Tobacco use (particularly with alcohol use)
- Alcohol use (particularly spirits)
- Poor diet
- Sun exposure
Avoidance of risk factors (tobacco and alcohol) and early detection are key to management. Swift notification to the Dentist of any unusual finding in your mouth and any associated symptoms is helpful so that a referral may be actioned promptly.