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Dentists and the Cancer Society mark World Head and Neck Cancer Day

Dentists and the Cancer Society mark World Head and Neck Cancer Day

National, 27.07.22 – The New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) and the Cancer Society are raising awareness of the incidence of head and neck cancers for World Head and Neck Cancer Day today. These include cancers of the lips, mouth, throat and salivary glands.

New Zealand ranks with one of the world’s highest incidence rates for these cancers, with around 500 to 550 new cases diagnosed each year. Worldwide about one million cases are detected annually.

“The public should be vigilant, but not alarmed. If you are aware of an ulcer, or a red or white patch inside your mouth, especially one that has not healed after three weeks, seek advice from your dentist or GP,” said NZDA Head and Neck Cancer spokesperson, Dr Hadleigh Clark, an Oral Medicine Specialist.

“This is a very timely reminder for people to be vigilant, and to seek help and advice if they notice changes in their mouths. Also, head and neck cancers may present with swelling in the neck. The HPV vaccine is known to reduce the incidence of head and neck cancers as HPV infection is known to be a cause of some of these tumours. As with any cancer early diagnosis is key – it means treatments may be less aggressive, and the chance of cure higher,” said Cancer Society Medical Director Dr Kate Gregory.

“The majority of mouth ulcers are due to innocent reasons, such as having accidentally bitten your cheek or tongue. Dentists are able to diagnose many of these problems and can also refer a patient onwards to a specialist,” says Dr Clark.

“Like many conditions an early diagnosis is key to an improved outcome. And there are preventative actions too. Smoking and alcohol consumption are risk factors that have been proven to increase the chances of oral cancers developing.”

“We encourage our patients to stop smoking: dentists are no strangers to smoking cessation and New Zealand’s smokefree 2025 goal,” says Dr Clark.

Many cancers of the mouth or tongue may be painless, however they may bleed. They need to be checked without delay,” said Dr Clark. 

If you are worried at all see your dentist or doctor in the first instance.

The day is acknowledged by the International Federation of Head and Neck Oncology Societies together with over 50 head and neck societies across more than 50 countries.

ENDS

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Media contacts

Michael Colhoun, Senior Communications Advisor, New Zealand Dental Association:
09 579 8001 | 021 0265 4083

Wendy Billingsley, Communications Manager, Cancer Society of New Zealand:
wendy@cancer.org.nz | 027 6666 552

About the Cancer Society of New Zealand

The Cancer Society of New Zealand is the country's leading organisation dedicated to reducing the incidence of cancer and ensuring the best cancer care for New Zealanders. We are committed to working with communities and decision makers by providing leadership and advocacy in cancer control, with core services in information and support, research and health promotion.