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The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that in 2015:

  • 4,400 Canadians will be diagnosed with oral cavity cancer.
  • 1,200 Canadians will die from oral cavity cancer.
    • 2,900 men will be diagnosed with oral cavity cancer and 810 will die from it.
    • 1,450 women will be diagnosed with oral cavity cancer and 390 will die from it.

Risk factors: current or previous tobacco users (including cigarette/cigar smokers, and chewing tobacco), second hand smoke, alcohol, oral sex, Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV/AIDS), history of previous cancer, family health history, poor diet/lifestyle, UV exposure, etc. (this list is not exhaustive).

Factors that show decrease in the risk of cancer: reduction or completely stopping the use of tobacco and alcohol, practising safe sex, maintaining a healthy diet, regular physical activity, using UV protection, etc. (this list is not exhaustive).

Signs and symptoms: white or red patches on your tongue, lips, or in your mouth, lumps or changes in the texture or colour of oral tissues, sores or patches that will not heal, difficulty swallowing, or changes in taste or tongue sensation.

At your dental check-ups, your dentist and dental hygienist will provide a thorough oral cancer screening. It’s important, though, to perform your own oral cancer screenings in between dental check-ups – going six months or more in between oral cancer screenings is too long, and could decrease the chance of a good prognosis of recovery if a lesion is growing aggressively.

The most common areas that oral cancers are found are on the lower lip, tongue, and on floor of the mouth. Follow this 8-Step Oral Cancer Screening chart to check areas that dental professionals monitor the most for cancerous lesions:

Oral Cancer Screening


If you notice a lesion in your mouth that’s concerning to you, it’s recommended to monitor it for 10-14 days. If the lesion is still present at that time, make an appointment with your dental health professional for further clinical investigation. In order to properly diagnose the lesion, a biopsy may be performed, and imaging tests such as x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs may be taken. This will help determine whether or not medical treatment or complete removal of the lesion is required.

Remember to check your mouth regularly, as well as make check-up appointments with your dentist and dental hygienist.

www.cancer.ca,. (2015). Oral cavity cancer statistics – Canadian Cancer Society. Retrieved 29 September 2015, from http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/oral/statistics/?region=on