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Victoria's leading public oral health agency is rolling out a pilot program to prevent oral cancers

Photo: Vic pilot program to tackle oral cancer
As three people on average die from oral cancer in Victoria each week, an oral health agency is on a mission to trial a program to prevent the disease.

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 cause 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.

DHSV chief executive Deborah Cole said there has been an increase in the number of oral cancer cases in Victoria and preventative action was needed.

"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," Dr Cole said, of the Cancer Council Victoria figures.

"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."

DHSV program lead Maria Dikeakos told AAP the pilot had been running for about two 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 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.

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