According The Australian Bureau of Statistics 700 people died in 2011 from malignant cancers of the lip, oral cavity and pharynx, over twice the rate of cervical cancer, yet few in the community or medical professions are aware that it was often preventable.

Researchers, Dr Mahmoud Bakr and Emma Skerman from the School of Dentistry and Oral Health completed a survey of dental students, dentists as well as community members who attended the Griffith Health dental clinics and found very few patients were aware of oral cancers, how they emerge and how they can be prevented.

Need to see a dentist

“Dental students do learn about Oral Cancers, but Medical students only get a cancer overview, unless they specialise. The general public clearly has not been informed.

“First of all the community needs to know that Oral cancer exists, secondly if people suspect anything abnormal in their mouth, they need to go to a dentist not a General Medical Practitioner for an oral cancer screen, said Dr Bakr.

“The information is out there, but just needs to be promoted.”

Public Health campaign

Dr Bakr and Ms Skerman (a 5th year dentistry student) have looked at previous campaigns and new information modes, like social media, to find the best way to raise awareness. Dr Bakr thinks simpler methods could kick off a movement like displaying posters in dental clinics, handing out pamphlets or booklets, or events like an oral cancer screening day.

“An oral cancer-screening day, conducted by a Dental Clinic could raise awareness of oral cancer, in the broader community. A similar day kicked off awareness in Ireland when a screening was done at Dublin University.

“They also found five cases of preventable cancer.”