The rate of oral cancer is increasing…. And it is increasing at an alarming RATE!
Even though things like radiation and and surgery can have success in removing the cancer, there are severe consequences which can compromise your life!
Oral Cancer (or the fancy name – Oral squamous cell carcinoma) is a condition characterised by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal ‘tumour’ cells.
These cells are like weeds in a garden, overgrowing and destroying the surrounding gum, bone and mucosal surfaces.
Oral cancer not only causes local destruction, as it can spread via the bloodstream and lymphatic system to plant seeds in other organs (such as the lungs, bones or brain) that grow into new tumours (a process called ‘metastasis’).
It is generally treated by combination of surgical removal and radiation therapy.
In Australia, the major risk factors with regards to oral cancer are smoking and the consumption of alcohol. However, in the last 30 years there has been an increase the prevalence of young women developing oral cancers due the effects of human papilloma virus (HPV). Luckily, the introduction of widespread Gardasil vaccination for young women is pushing back against this particular causative factor.
Oral cancer can vary in how it appears in the mouth. It can appear on any of the smooth surfaces of the mouth, including the cheeks, the tongue, the floor of the mouth, the roof of the mouth, the gums and the throat. It may appear as a red patch, white patch or a non-healing ulcer. It is typically painless, meaning that patients often tragically do not seek treatment until too late.
Oral cancer is a condition with a particularly poor prognosis, with an average of only half of patients surviving 5 years past their initial diagnosis. Even in cases where surgery or radiation therapy is successful in removing the cancer, there are severe consequences for the patient’s quality of life. Surgery will often result in removal of large sections of the jawbones, resulting in facial deformity and loss of normal oral function (i.e. speech, eating and drinking). Radiation therapy destroys the salivary glands causing permanent dry mouth. For these reasons, early diagnosis of oral cancer is paramount in improving survival rates and reducing the side effects of drastic treatment. The current professional recommendation is for patients to receive regular screening from oral health professionals (such as dentists and oral health therapists).
At Avenue Dental we currently utilise OralID technology to aid in our oral cancer screening. This device utilises fluorescence to allow easier identification of abnormal patches in the mouth. With increased awareness of the existence and causes of oral cancer combined with regular oral cancer screenings, we can reduce the effects of this nasty condition.