In 2018, over 5,090 Australians received a diagnosis of head and neck cancer (which includes oral oropharyngeal cancer). As a result of this cruel disease, an expected 1,000 of these conditions will result in death, and only 2/3 of them will still be alive 5 years from diagnosis. Head and neck cancer was the 7th most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia in 2014 and is expected to remain the same for 2018.
Who Is At Risk?
Those who consume alcohol and smoke cigarettes will have more chance of being diagnosed with oral cancer. It is estimated that 31% of oral cancer is caused by excessive alcohol consumption.
The Main Types of Oral Cancer?
The types of oral cancer can be broken down into four main categories:
- Oesophageal cancer (food pipe)
- Laryngeal cancer (voice box)
- Mouth cancer ( the most common)
- Pharyngeal cancer (upper throat)
Alcohol and Cancer
Simply put, consuming alcohol regularly means that your throat and mouth come in contact with alcohol. This is a definite risk factor when it comes to all types of oral cancer. A study conducted in 2010 discovered that those who regularly consume 4 or more standard drinks are about 5x more likely to be at risk for pharynx and mouth cancers. This is compared to those who didn’t drink alcohol or consumed it moderately.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
It’s extremely important to detect oral cancer as early as possible, since early diagnosis by a dentist or physician can increase the chances of a full recovery. The primary oral cancer symptoms are:
- A single ulcer or swelling that has existed for over 2 weeks.
- White or red lesions in the mouth that can be located under the tongue, on the side or on the mouth’s floor.
- Swellings, numbness, pain or tenderness anywhere in your mouth
Although ulcers can be caused by many factors, it is advisable to have it checked by your dentist or physician. Cancer-related pain usually doesn’t occur until the cancer is in its later stages, so even if an ulcer in your mouth doesn’t cause you any discomfort, it is better to be safe and have it looked at.
Later Oral Cancer Symtpoms
The later symptoms can include pain, numbness or a bleeding ulcer. At this point, it’s imperative that you see a dentist or physician immediately.
Since the mouth is designed to heal more quickly than other body parts, you need to also have ongoing, long-term mouth issues checked by your dentist. A dentist is able to detect throat or mouth cancer even before you are able to notice anything is wrong, they can detect the warning signs or oral cancer, so it is important not to miss any scheduled dental check up appointments. It is not just your teeth that might be in trouble!
If you are concerned by mouth or throat cancer, or to have your oral health checked by Dr Kate Amos or Dr Sam Rosehill at Ethical Dental in Coffs Harbour or Dorrigo call (02) 6652 3185 or book online. To learn more about how your lifestyle may be affecting your oral health check out our articles ‘Smoking and Oral Cancer’ and ”What Causes Bad Breath?’.