Regular dental checkups can help detect oral cancer

    Stick your tongue out at your dentist during Oral Health Month

    VANCOUVER, March 31 /CNW/ - Regular dental checkups can play an important
role in the early detection of oral cancer, says the BC Dental Association.
Oral cancer - which can occur anywhere in the mouth including the lips,
tongue, gums, cheeks, the palate or throat - will strike approximately 3,200
Canadians this year and result in about 1,100 deaths. But if caught early,
oral cancer has an 80-90% survival rate. As part of its annual Oral Health
Month campaign this April, the BCDA is raising awareness about oral cancer and
how dentists can help in the early detection of this disease.
    "Because your dentist sees your mouth regularly, they can detect changes
that may indicate a problem," said Dr. Alastair Nicoll, BCDA President. "An
oral cancer examination during a routine dental visit is a quick and painless
way to detect cancer early and save your life."
    An oral cancer examination takes about five minutes and includes an
inspection of the face, neck, lips and inside the mouth. Patients are asked to
stick out their tongue so it can be checked for swelling or abnormal color or
    Smoking and alcohol, especially when combined, are key risk factors for
oral cancer. Constant exposure to the sun can also cause cancer of the lips.
Although adults over the age of 40 are at greatest risk, there have been cases
of oral cancer in young children and those with no known risk factors.
    Smokeless or chewing tobacco, another high risk factor for oral cancer,
is of particular concern for British Columbia's South East Asian and Indian
communities. "It is a common cultural practice to chew on betel or areca nut
mixed with tobacco," said Dr. Michele Williams, Oral Medicine Leader at the BC
Cancer Agency. "Oral cancer usually develops where the tobacco product is held
in the mouth."
    Become familiar with your mouth. Call your dentist if you notice any of
the following:

    -   White or red patches on the lips or anywhere inside the mouth
    -   Any sores that bleed easily but don't heal within three weeks
    -   Persistent lumps or ulcers
    -   Unexpected loosening of teeth
    -   Pain or numbness in the mouth or lips

    Don't ignore a mouth sore because it doesn't hurt. Most pre-cancerous and
cancerous lesions are completely painless.
    Minimize your risk for developing oral cancer. Avoid tobacco and
excessive alcohol use, and wear lip balm that contains sunscreen. Visit your
dentist regularly for checkups and if you notice anything usual in your mouth,
don't wait for it to go away. Call your dentist!

For further information:

For further information: Ina Hunt, BC Dental Association, (604) 714-2383
or (604) 736-7202, Email:

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