Oral Cancer: The Unspoken Killer
Oral cancer is an insidious and devastating malignancy. In the United States, it kills one person every hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Those who are diagnosed and treated have less than a 50 percent chance of surviving five year
The sad thing is that these statistics have not changed in years. One of the reasons why oral cancer is so deadly is that oral squamous carcinoma is notorious for its clinical variability - it takes many forms. Most lesions in the mouth are not cancerous, such as sores from biting or burning your mouth, improperly fitting dentures or appliances, atypical herpes lesions, even the common aphthous ulcer (canker sore). However, new research suggests that any lesion that has been present for longer than 21 days needs to be examined.
The risk factors for oral cancer are known.
Males are twice as likely as females to develop oral carcinomas. Risk is increased by being over the age of 40, smoking and or chewing tobacco and drinking. Alcohol and tobacco synergistically interact, increasing each others harmful effects. Other risk factors include being black, having a prior history, dietary deficiencies, viral and candida infections, sunlight, immune deficiencies or suppression diseases, a familial predisposition, and air pollution.
There are two important factors that need to be addressed in dealing with oral cancer; the discovery and the diagnosis. Even though the American Dental Association (ADA) states that 60 percent of the population visits the dentist at least once a year, published studies show that currently less than 15 percent of those who visit the dentist regularly report having had an oral cancer screening.
Dentists are being called upon to help combat this deadly disease by conducting oral cancer screenings on a regular basis, being current in their knowledge of oral cancers and competent in proper screening procedures.
There is an exciting new technique called the "brush biopsy" that offers unprecedented diagnostic capabilities in the dental office. This biopsy is not invasive and when warranted, can be done easily as part of an oral examination. The results are sent to a lab and are reliable in determining whether there is a malignancy. If so, a more conventional invasive biopsy and further tests are needed to determine classification and stage. There are four levels of cellular involvement: genetically altered cells, dysplasia, carcinoma in situ and invasive cancer.
Sigmund Freud, Babe Ruth, Humphrey Bogart, Ben Gazzarra, Lana Turner, Mary Wells, Marilyn French, Alan King, Aaron Spelling, Eddie Van Halen and George Hamilton have all had oral cancer.
(Dr. Chris Edwards, at Smile Design Center in Viera, has always performed oral cancer screenings as part of his comprehensive examination and offers the brush biopsy. For more information call 751-7775. Smile Design Center is located at Wickham Commons, Suite 102, 8247 Devereux Dr in Viera.)