Genesis Dentists

Oral Cancer

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is also known as mouth cancer or cancer of the oral cavity. It is a significant health concern in Australia and globally. Moreover, it encompasses a range of cancers affecting the mouth’s various parts, such as the lips, tongue, gums, and the floor or roof of the mouth, often presenting on the sides of the tongue and the mouth’s floor. Thus, this blog aims to provide an extensive overview of this cancer, discussing its definition, causes, symptoms, detection, and treatment, primarily drawing from authoritative Australian resources.

What is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer refers to the malignant growths that can appear in any part of the oral cavity. Certainly, it’s an aggressive type of cancer with a 50% five-year survival rate, largely because it tends to go undetected until it reaches an advanced stage. Hence, awareness and early detection are critical for improving outcomes.

Symptoms and Warning Signs

In its early stages, oral cancer may not present any symptoms, which contributes to late diagnosis. However, there are warning signs to be vigilant about:

  • Persistent sores, lumps, or changes in the mouth’s soft tissues
  • Ulcers lasting more than two weeks or recurrent ulcers
  • Unexplained bleeding or blood blisters that don’t heal
  • White or red patches inside the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing, jaw or tongue movement
  • Swollen glands under the jaw or swollen jaw
  • Numbness in the mouth or changes in voice

Detection and Diagnosis

Regular dental check-ups are crucial as dentists perform screenings for oral cancer during routine examinations. This is also why individuals with no natural teeth, including those who wear dentures, should still undergo regular dental inspections for any abnormalities​.

The Most Common Form: Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is the most prevalent type of oral cancer, affecting the soft tissue linings of the mouth (oral mucosa)​.

Risk Factors

Lifestyle factors play a significant role in the risk of developing this cancer. Above all, tobacco use and alcohol consumption are primary risk factors, with their combined use markedly increasing the risk. Other factors include:

  • Age (most cases are in those over 40)
  • Gender (more prevalent in men)
  • Areca nut (betel quid) chewing
  • Viral infections such as HPV
  • Family history of cancer
  • Past cancer treatments
  • Long-term immunosuppression

Tobacco Use

All forms of smoking, including vaping, cigarettes, cigars, and marijuana, increase the risk of this cancer. Thus, quitting these habits is the most effective prevention, and dental professionals can offer support and strategies for cessation.

Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol intake, even at moderate levels, increases the risk of this cancer. So, the Australian Guidelines for Alcohol Intake suggest no more than two standard drinks per day to mitigate this risk.

HPV and Oral Sex

Certainly, HPV transmission through oral sex is a known risk factor for oral cancer, particularly affecting the throat. Both men and women are recommended to practice safe sex and receive HPV vaccinations (Gardasil and Cervarix) to lower the risk of infection.

Sun Exposure

The lips are vulnerable to sun damage, which can lead to cancer. Thus, to prevent harmful UV rays, it is recommended to use SPF15+ lip balm and sunscreen, and to wear hats.


The course of treatment for this cancer depends on the cancer’s stage at diagnosis and may involve surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Oral cancer is a severe yet often preventable disease. Most importantly, awareness of its symptoms, risk factors, and the importance of regular dental check-ups can significantly improve early detection and outcomes.

In understanding this cancer, we must emphasise the importance of education and preventative healthcare in mitigating the impact of this aggressive cancer type. By staying informed and proactive, we can work towards reducing the incidence and mortality rates associated with this cancer.


At Genesis Dentists in North Melbourne, VIC, Australia, We dedicate ourselves to delivering an exceptional standard of patient care, epitomizing both comfort and excellence in dental health practices. Our clinic stands as a retreat for sophisticated periodontal treatments, provided with exactitude and a gentle touch, assuring optimal oral health for every patient. Strategically positioned for the convenience of North Melbourne residents and those from neighboring suburbs, we extend a warm invitation to individuals from Carlton, Fitzroy, Brunswick, Parkville, West Melbourne, Docklands, Flemington, Kensington, Ascot Vale, Moonee Ponds, Essendon, Coburg, Footscray, Yarraville, and Pascoe Vale to discover premier dental care.

In the vibrant vicinity of North Melbourne and its surrounding communities, Genesis Dentists stands as a cornerstone of complete dental health. We cater to a spectrum of dental needs from routine check-ups and professional cleanings to prompt emergency dental services, empowered by the latest CEREC technology for on-the-spot ceramic restorations. Our all-encompassing services stretch to include root canal therapies, wisdom tooth removals, and the crafting of bespoke veneers, crowns, and implants, along with expertise in periodontics, pediatric dentistry, and orthodontic aligners. With advanced X-ray facilities onsite, we guarantee a quick and precise diagnostic and treatment regimen. We gear every facet of our practice towards ensuring that your visit is efficient.

The philosophy guiding Genesis Dentists is anchored in the principle that high-caliber dental care is a universal right. We actively devote ourselves to providing an extensive range of dental services that cater to the diverse dental needs of our patients. We reflect our commitment through our compassionate approach and scrupulous attention to detail in every treatment, ensuring that we not only create visually stunning smiles but also promote exceptional health for each patient who leaves with a smile.



This cancer refers to the group of cancers that occur in the oral cavity. For example, including the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, gums, and sometimes extending to the throat. It starts in the cells lining the mouth and can be aggressive if not detected and treated early.

The most commonly affected areas include the sides of the tongue and the floor of the mouth. However, this cancer can also occur on the lips, inside the cheeks, gums, and the back of the throat.

This cancer represents up to four percent of all cancers diagnosed in Australia, with a notable increase in incidence in recent years. Moreover, it predominantly affects people over the age of 40 and is more common in men than women.

Early signs may be subtle and include persistent sores, lumps, or ulcers that do not heal within two weeks; white or red patches in the mouth; unexplained bleeding; and difficulty with chewing or swallowing. However, in its earliest stages, oral cancer may not produce any symptoms.

Late-stage diagnosis of this cancer often occurs because early-stage oral cancers usually do not cause symptoms, or the symptoms may be similar to less serious conditions, leading to potential misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.

Risk factors include tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, HPV infection, areca nut (betel quid) chewing, exposure to UV light (for lip cancers), immunosuppression, a family history of cancer, and prior cancer therapies.

Certainly, tobacco contains carcinogens that can cause mutations in the cells of the mouth, leading to cancer. This risk is present in all forms of tobacco use, including smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and also smokeless tobacco. The combination of tobacco use with alcohol consumption significantly increases the risk.

  • Yes, there is a strong link. Alcohol can act as a solvent, enhancing the penetration of other carcinogens into the cells lining the mouth. It also metabolizes into acetaldehyde, a toxic chemical that can damage DNA and promote cancer.

Yes, while smoking is a major risk factor, oral cancer can also appear in non-smokers. Other risk factors like alcohol use, HPV infection, and sun exposure (for lip cancer) can contribute to the development of oral cancer in individuals who have never smoked.

HPV, particularly strain HPV16, is a significant risk factor for oropharyngeal cancer (cancer in the back of the mouth and throat).

Yes, men are at a higher risk of developing this cancer. 

Oral cancer is most commonly diagnosed in individuals over the age of 40. Risk increases with age, and the majority of cases are found in the older population.

Reducing the risk involves quitting tobacco use, moderating alcohol consumption, protecting lips from sun exposure, maintaining a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, practicing safe sex to reduce HPV transmission, and getting vaccinated against HPV.

Yes, particularly for the lips. Chronic sun exposure can lead to cancer on the lips. 

Dentists can perform screenings for oral cancer as part of routine dental examinations. This includes checking not just the teeth but also the entire oral cavity for any unusual changes or lesions.

Treatments include surgery to remove the cancerous growths, radiation therapy to destroy cancer cells, and chemotherapy to target cancer cells throughout the body. The specific treatment plan depends on the stage and location of the cancer​.

Early detection significantly increases the chances of successful treatment and can lead to a cure. 

The five-year survival rate for this cancer is approximately 50%. However, survival rates vary depending on several factors, including the cancer’s stage at diagnosis, location, and the patient’s overall health.

Individuals with higher risk factors may need more frequent screenings​.

No, denture wearers should still undergo regular oral cancer screenings. Dentists will examine the gums and other soft tissues in the mouth to check for abnormalities, which is crucial even for those without natural teeth.

Precancerous lesions in the mouth are abnormal cell growths that can potentially develop into cancer. They are not yet cancerous but may become so if left unchecked. Regular dental check-ups can aid in the early detection of these lesions, improving the chances of preventing the development of oral cancer​.

This cancer is considered a type of head and neck cancer. It shares risk factors with other cancers in this category, such as tobacco and alcohol use, HPV, and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infections. A family history of these cancers can also be a risk factor.

A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables may increase the risk of oral cancer. Nutrient-rich foods contain antioxidants and other compounds that can help protect cells from damage that could lead to cancer. Conversely, a balanced diet rich in these foods may help reduce the risk..

Yes, HPV vaccines, which protect against the high-risk strains of HPV known to cause cancers, can reduce the risk of developing oral cancers associated with HPV infection.

Symptoms of advanced this cancer may include persistent lumps or sores in the mouth that do not heal, severe pain, difficulty chewing or swallowing, significant weight loss, and changes in speech. If any of these symptoms are present, it is critical to seek medical attention immediately​.

A self-exam for oral cancer involves looking and feeling inside the mouth for lumps, sores, or white or red patches. Using a mirror and good lighting, examine all areas of the mouth, including the roof, floor, tongue, cheeks, and the back of the throat. Report any abnormalities to a healthcare professional.

This cancer can be particularly aggressive due to its ability to quickly invade surrounding tissues and spread to other parts of the body (metastasize). Additionally, its location in the mouth can complicate early detection, as changes may be subtle and mistaken for other benign conditions.

Lifestyle changes to help prevent oral cancer include quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, maintaining good oral hygiene, eating a balanced diet, protecting lips from the sun, and having regular dental check-ups that include oral cancer screenings.

To protect against lip cancer, use a lip balm with a high SPF, avoid excessive sun exposure, especially during peak hours, and wear a wide-brimmed hat to shield the face and lips from UV rays.

The Cancer Council provides a helpline (13 11 20) for information and support, support groups for shared experiences, practical services like transport to treatment, wig services to help with self-confidence, and an online community for further support. They also offer e-learning resources for cancer education and podcasts for additional information and support​.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *