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  • Dr Vyla Ellis

Oral Cancer

About 2300 Australians are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. It affects twice as many men than women. Early detection greatly improves the prognosis. Unfortunately, by the time oral cancer is diagnosed it is often advanced.

What should I look out for?

Oral cancer usually affects the lips, tongue or floor of the mouth however it can also affect the cheeks, gums, roof of the mouth, tonsils and salivary glands.

Symptoms in the mouth and lips include:

  • Red or white patches

  • A sore or swelling that won't heal

  • Difficulty or painful swallowing

  • Numbness or pain in the mouth

  • Bleeding

  • Unexplained tooth loss

  • Lump in the neck

Risk factors

The main risk factors are:

  • Smoking - increases the risk 6 times

  • Heavy alcohol consumption

Other risk factors

  • Family history of oral cancer

  • Gum disease

  • Poor oral hygiene

  • Poor diet, especially one lacking in fruits and vegetables

  • Sun exposure

  • Chewing betel nut

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Oral cancer screening

We screen all our patients for oral cancer. This includes a simple visual inspection and palpation of the soft tissues.

What should I do if have symptoms?

Consult your dentist as soon as possible. If they are unable to diagnose the symptoms a biopsy or imaging will be organised for diagnosis. Early detection greatly increases the prognosis.

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