Early discovery the key to treating oral cancer

There are approximately 450 new cases of oral cancer diagnosed every year in the island of Ireland. This figure is comparable to cervical cancer and melanoma and it has a high morbidity rate despite advances in surgical and reconstructive techniques. There are four to five deaths for every 10 cases of oral cancer. The rates for males are three times higher than females and lifestyle plays a significant role. Smoking, alcohol, and poor diet are the major risk factors, with tobacco linked to more than 75 per cent of cases of intra oral cancer.

The Irish Dental Association is keen to encourage people to attend their dentist for a regular check-up. Oral cancer, like any other cancer, has the best chance of being cured if diagnosed early. Unlike other cancers however it has the advantage of two professional groups, dentists and doctors, that are trained to detect it. This, combined with the relative ease with which the mouth can be examined, means that early detection should be possible in many cases. All dentists are trained to detect oral cancer and precancerous lesions. If a suspicious lesion is found, a patient will be referred to a specialist for further investigation. If an oral cancer is identified it is treated with a combination of surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy.

Early discovery and intervention is key to a good outcome for this type of cancer. Attend the dentist regularly and maintain your oral health, gums and teeth. If it has been a while since you have had a check up with your dentist, call now.

Terence McAlinden BSc(Hons ), PhD, DDS, Breaffy Dental, 094 902 3163.

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