Victoria’s leading public oral health agency is rolling out a pilot program to prevent oral cancers, which kill an average of three people in the state each week.
Dental Health Services Victoria (DHSV) hopes to increase oral screening for early detection and increase prevention by upskilling clinicians.
“Oral cancer is one of the leading causes of disease burden in Victoria with an average of over 14 new diagnoses and three deaths a week,” University of Melbourne Professor Michael McCullough said in a statement.
“In its early stages, the disease can be difficult to detect by patients and clinicians and may remain undiagnosed until well advanced. The prognosis may therefore be poor, with low survival rates and severe health and economic impact for patients and their families.
“With earlier diagnosis, a patient’s treatment and prognosis can be enormously improved.”
Oral cancers include those in the mouth, gums and throat.
“From 2005 to 2017, the number of cases in Victoria has steadily increased by 42 per cent and that’s why we need to tackle signs of oral cancer as early as we can,” DHSV chief executive Deborah Cole said.
“The incidence of throat cancer has more than doubled during this time and more recently, human papillomavirus infection has been found to be linked with increasing incidence of throat cancer.”
The pilot had now been running for about three weeks, with about 20 sites to take part over this year.
It is hoped the pilot’s success will enable a statewide program rollout to decrease the number of oral cancers diagnosed at a late stage.
DHSV is leading the program with the University of Melbourne Dental School, the Australian Dental Association Victorian branch, La Trobe University’s Department of Dentistry and the Department of Health and Human Services.