By Joana Breckner
My life was spared by a weekly visit to my dentist in Orem. I’ve been free of mouth cancer for four years. I am 47 years old, married, and the mother of two young daughters, ages 10 and 12. I’m neither a smoker nor a drinker, and I’ve always been in fantastic health. My dentist, Dr. Phillip Sacks of Woodland Hills, California, noticed precancerous white spots on my tongue during dental work in 2000.
The biopsy was benign, but Dr. Sacks and my doctor kept an eye on me for the following seven years. In 2007, I had my first tumor removed, which was modest and confined. My cancer reappeared four years later. I had a 10-hour operation to remove half of my tongue, then repaired using forearm grafts, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. My jugular vein cancer reappeared a year later. More surgeries, chemo, and radiation are all treatments.
My experience has a good ending four years later, and by expressing it, I hope to increase awareness about oral cancer and checkups. Individuals who start smoking, use tobacco, or consume large amounts of alcohol have generally had the highest chance of developing oral cancer, but HPV contact is now a major contributor. Young non-smokers with HPV are the speediest oral cancer group.
Mouth cancer screenings are not yet available as part of any national program. “Just undertaking ‘opportunistic’ preventive care would produce hundreds or thousands of chance to discover oral cancer in its early levels,” according to the American Dental Association. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, individuals have an 80 to 90% survival rate once oral cancer is discovered in its early stages.
Take control of your dental health with these simple, potentially life-saving measures.
- Make sure your dentist or a skilled hygienist “cleans and checks” you every time you go to the dentist. It takes only about five minutes to complete this optical and mechanical examination.
- Oral cancer and HPV have a significant relationship. More information regarding the HPV vaccine may be obtained from children’s pediatricians and dentists. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, boys and girls should get the HPV vaccine when they are 11 or 12 years old.
- If you have painful throat or swallowing difficulties for more than two weeks, see your doctor.
I am still alive because of early identification and life-saving operations and therapies. My life quality is fantastic, and I am pain-free in eating, drinking, tasting, and living. Every day, I’m reminded of cancer by a scar that runs from my lip down my chin and small speech impairment. I’m looking for my new normal, as are many other survivors. I am, nevertheless, alive, loving life, and grateful—particularly to my kind dentist, Dr. Sacks.