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Just Do it - Oral Cancer Screenings

Apr 12, 2016

By Dean George

What do Babe Ruth, Beatle George Harrison, movie stars Lana Turner and Humphrey Bogart, TV actor Jack Klugman, and former U.S. Presidents Ulysses Grant and Grover Cleveland have in common?

At some point, all of them had oral cancer. Some of these famous names died from the disease while others recovered. For example, as previously reported in The Best Kept Dental Surgery Secret Ever, President Grover Cleveland survived a highly secretive dental surgery in 1893 and lived another 17 years before passing away of heart failure in 1908.

President Ulysses Grant wasn’t nearly as fortunate. Grant was diagnosed with a malignant cancer at the base of his tongue in 1884. Since there was no radiotherapy or other medical treatments at the time to remove the cancer, it grew quickly and proved fatal. Grant is the only U.S. president to have died from cancer.              

Let’s fast forward to present day.  April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. For the 17th consecutive year, oral health professionals are collaborating to draw attention to the importance of regular oral cancer screenings and early detection.

Every hour of every day, someone dies of oral cancer or cancer of the mouth and upper throat (oropharyngeal cancer). The mortality rates associated with these cancers are higher because they are usually discovered too late. Part of the reason is because oral cancer is often relatively painless and symptom free – until it’s too late.

More than half of oral cancers have already spread to the lymph nodes or other areas by the time they are detected. Those patients who do survive oral cancer may experience problems with eating, speaking, swallowing and facial disfigurement.

Sometimes signs of oral cancer or other cancers are found during a routine dental exam. In this Dental Wire story, the actions by an alert Oklahoma dental hygienist helped save a young girl’s life that was on the verge of rupturing a pancreatic tumor.

In 2016, an estimated 48,250 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed, according to the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program of the National Cancer Institute.   Of those, 40 percent will not survive longer than five years.

There is no standard or routine screening test for oral cancer, but even a routine dental or medical check-up can find lesions in the mouth that may become cancerous. More specific methods of finding pre-cancerous abnormal oral tissue includes the use of blue stains, fluorescent mouth rinses, scraping cells from the lips, tongue, mouth or throat and a tissue biopsy using a special oral brush.

Many dental plans offer specific oral cancer screenings as a preventative benefit. To find plans available in your area that can help offset the cost of oral cancer screens, click here

Photo source: ForwardScience, LLC

Copyright 2016, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC

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