Watch Your Mouth

While it’s something parent or a teacher might say to an excited school child, we’re being given the warning from Queensland Health.

teeth-fresh-mouthThey urge us all to watch for symptoms of oral, head and neck cancers during this, Dental Health Week.

Queensland’s Chief Dental Officer Dr Mark Brown says the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows a 30 % increase in head and neck cancers diagnosed between 2004 and 2014.

“More than half of head and neck cancers are cancers of the mouth or lips, which is why it’s really important to watch your mouth for any changes or abnormalities.”

“Early detection saves lives, so be aware of any changes to your mouth, lips, face or neck and report them to your dentist or doctor as soon as possible.”

Dr Brown says Oral health is about the whole mouth – not just teeth and he warns we should be checking the inside of your cheeks and lips, front and sides of the tongue, roof of the mouth, back of the throat and under the tongue.

“Symptoms to keep an eye out for include swelling or lumps anywhere inside the mouth, under the chin, on the face or on the neck; sores in the mouth or on the face or neck that have not healed within a few weeks; red, white or dark patches in the mouth; numbness or pain in any area of the mouth, face or neck.

“Bleeding in the mouth or nose that is persistent and unexplained or persistent ear ache or problems hearing; and • changes in the voice, such as hoarseness are all signs.”

“Early changes can be difficult to detect on your own, which is why we recommend regular check-ups with a dentist, who will screen for any early symptoms of oral cancers.”

Common risks for cancers of the mouth or lips include smoking, drinking alcohol excessively, poor oral hygiene and sun exposure for the lips.

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Chris McMillan says the two leading lifestyle factors that cause head and neck cancers are smoking and alcohol abuse, both of which are more prevalent in men.

“While not talked about often, head and neck cancers are in the top five most common cancers for Australian men, with around 75 % of all head and neck cancers diagnosed in men.”

“Any amount of alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing alcohol-related cancers, including oral cancers – and the risk increases in line with the amount of consumption.”

“Limiting alcohol intake and quitting smoking is vital to reducing the risk of developing mouth cancers later in life.”