Lo­cal den­tal pro­fes­sion­als raise aware­ness of oral can­cers as Na­tional Can­cer Aware­ness Month draws to a close

Calhoun Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Tyler Ser­ritt Staff Writer

As Na­tional Can­cer Aware­ness Month draws to a close, lo­cal den­tal pro­fes­sion­als Dr. Larry Til­ley and Dr. Dy­lan Holt­man of Cal­houn Den­tal As­so­ciates wanted to take the op­por­tu­nity to raise aware­ness about the dan­gers of oral can­cer and dis­cuss the treat­ment, de­tec­tion and the preva­lence of the dis­ease in the Gor­don County area.

Oral can­cer, which is clas­si­fied with the head and neck can­cers, is de­scribed as any can­cer­ous tis­sue that de­vel­ops, grows and spreads through­out the oral cav­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. govern­ment’s can­cer sta­tis­tics data­base, there have been nearly 50,000 es­ti­mated new cases of oral can­cer so far in 2017, with an es­ti­mated 9,700 of those re­sult­ing in death.

Symp­toms of the dis­ease in­clude ul­cers any­where in the mouth that seem­ingly aren’t heal­ing, un­usual changes in the sur­faces of the mouth, red or white patches or le­sions on the gums or tongue or ran­dom bleed­ing from the mouth.

Al­though oral can­cer can stem from many oc­cur­rences, the most com­mon causes are heavy tobacco and al­co­hol us­age, an over­all lack of den­tal hy­giene or ir­ri­ta­tion from ill-fit­ting den­tures. In­fec­tion from the hu­man pa­pil­lo­mavirus (HPV), which is also re­spon­si­ble for many cases of cer­vi­cal can­cer and a com­monly passed STD, has also emerged as one of the pri­mary risk fac­tors.

Ac­cord­ing to Til­ley and Holt­man, lo­cal cit­i­zens are es­pe­cially at risk for the dis­ease be­cause of the heavy re­liance on tobacco, par­tic­u­larly the chew­ing and smoke­less va­ri­ety.

“Over the years, there have been nu­mer­ous cases in the area where I have been the first per­son to dis­cover it,” Til­ley said. “What we re­ally fear around here is chil­dren and teenagers start­ing to use chew­ing tobacco, or smok­ing and drink­ing, at an early age, which re­ally puts some­one at risk.”

When it comes to de­tec­tion of its symp­toms and treat­ment of oral can­cer, den­tists and den­tal pro­fes­sion­als are of­ten the first line of de­fense.

“Ev­ery ini­tial exam, es­pe­cially when it is a new pa­tient, we check for any ab­nor­mal­i­ties,” Til­ley said. “Of­ten times you will ob­serve swelling, dis­col­oration, a lack of sym­me­try in the mouth or en­larged lymph nodes. Those are all signs that some­one could have oral can­cer.”

The five-year sur­vival rate of oral can­cer is around 64.5 per­cent, which can be sig­nif­i­cantly lower than the sur­vival rate of other forms of can­cer. As with most dis­eases, the key to bat­tling though the dis­ease is early de­tec­tion. Til­ley and Holt­man ad­vise get­ting checked of­ten and prop­erly by your den­tist.

“It is so im­por­tant that we de­tect it early,” Holt­man said. “The sur­vival rate goes up to nearly 83 per­cent if we are able to catch it in its early stages. If it spreads and metas­ta­sizes, that sur­vival rate

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