27 July 2020

World Head and Neck Cancer Day

On this year’s World Head Neck and Cancer Day, 27 July, we’re reminding oral health professionals of their important role in oral cancer screening and prevention.

Sadly, more than 14 people per week on average are diagnosed with oral cancer in Victoria and five people die. Smoking and regular alcohol consumption are the biggest risk factors for oral cancer, with people who both smoke and drink alcohol regularly at far greater risk than those who do one or the other. Approximately 75 per cent of all oral cancers are associated with smoking and alcohol consumption, which highlights how important it is to help patients prevent this potentially life-threatening condition.

Oral health professionals can change the trajectory of oral cancer development by actively screening for and detecting it in its early stages, before it gets to the point of being untreatable or requires aggressive treatment to resolve.

What can oral health professionals do?

  • Screen for oral cancer during routine care and include questions about tobacco and alcohol consumption on the medical history form. Schedule time to discuss lifestyle factors that increase patients’ oral cancer risk during or following on from check-ups.
  • Refer patients to tobacco, alcohol or drug support services such as Quit or DirectLine
  • Undertake professional development to enhance your skills in this area, such as the free Smokefree Smiles training package for oral health professionals, and use the free resources available as part of this program. The new Oral Cancer Screening and Prevention Program, led by Dental Health Services Victoria (DHSV), supports oral health professionals to recognise oral cancer risk factors and detect the disease earlier. Ongoing training and information will be made available to all Victorian practitioners, and you can find out more here.
  • Support eviDent Foundation’s research into early detection of oral cancer, and learn about the effect of oral cancer on Connie, a mother of four who underwent extensive surgery.

Smokefree Smiles, led by DHSV in partnership with Quit Victoria and the ADAVB, was proudly supported and funded by the Victorian Government.

The Oral Cancer Screening and Prevention Program is led by DHSV in partnership with the University of Melbourne, La Trobe University, the DHHS and the ADAVB. The program is funded by the DHHS under the Victorian Cancer Plan.