Oral cancer or mouth cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. It can affect any of the soft tissues around the mouth, including the lips, cheeks, tongue and inside of the mouth.
An oral cancer screening provided by a dentist can detect the disease at an early stage when there's a greater chance of successful treatment and recovery.
There's no single cause of mouth cancer, but tobacco use is thought to be responsible for around 80% of cases. Secondary smoke can also increase your risk of developing cancers.
Other lifestyle factors that could increase your risk include:
Oral cancer gets more common with age and tends to affect more men than women, but it can affect people of all ages.
A family history of oral cancer and health problems such as cold sores, human papilloma virus (HPV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and leukoplakia can also increase your risk of developing the disease.
Some of the common signs that oral cancer may be present include:
If you spot any of these possible symptoms, you should see your dentist for an oral cancer screening. Regular screenings improve the chance of mouth cancer being detected early, even before any symptoms may be present.
An oral cancer screening is the first step in diagnosing possible mouth cancer. Screening is painless and only takes a few minutes. It can be completed by your dentist as part of your regular dental hygiene visit.
If your dentist notices possible evidence of oral cancer, they will refer you to a doctor who can provide a more thorough diagnosis. This may involve:
Treatment for mouth cancer is more likely to be successful if it's caught early. Treatments depend on where the cancer is and how much it has developed.
For smaller cancers, a surgeon may be able to surgically remove the tumour and some surrounding tissues. Other cancers may require radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of approaches to destroy the cancer cells.
Doctors will arrange regular check-ups to make sure the cancer hasn't returned or to catch any new problems early. Palliative care will also be recommended to help patients manage cancer symptoms and lower their risk factor.
If you need a check-up or there's something on your mind and you want to talk to a dentist, contact our friendly team at Sydney CBD Dental.
 Better Health Channel. Mouth cancer [Online] 2012 [Accessed August 2019] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/mouth-cancer
 Healthdirect. Mouth cancer [Online] 2018 [Accessed August 2019] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/mouth-cancer