When you combine all of the cancers that have success rates in both early diagnosis and survival, I question why oral cancer is still lagging behind. The bottom line is that like it or not, we must push the envelope to create awareness for the early detection and treatment of oral cancer. So here's to getting comfortable with the uncomfortable!
A few years ago, 32,000 Americans were diagnosed with oral cancer each year, and the survival rate was 5 years 50/50. Today, we are at 42,000 diagnosed with oral cancer each year, 1 person dies every 24 hours, and the survival rate has increased slightly to 50-57% at 5 years.
So what gives? Is it that we believe our patients know the risk factors and symptoms so it is their responsibility to start the conversation with us? If you are still performing oral cancer screening with your own eyesight, is it because you view oral cancer screening technology as a gimmick? If you have technology chairside, are you using it consistently as suggested by the manufacturer?
My advice is to use proven oral cancer detection technology that shows us a change in the tissue. This is an added step to ensure that we are doing everything we possibly can for early detection. Check out Indentifi and VELscope Vx (like some stats for their tech picking up on tissue changes).
We often dive straight into the clinical portion of our patients' screenings and do not share the risks or symptoms with them. Yes, this is repetitive, yet the way I see it, we always talk about the importance of flossing or interdental plaque removal...right?
Here are a few risk factors for oral cancer:
- Smoking now or within the past 10 years (smoking includes cigar, cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco)
- Amount of alcohol consumption
- Family history
- HPV...yes, go there!
If you are uncomfortable discussing HPV, check out my video that addresses it here.
So let?s push the envelope! Ask any of your patients over the age of 18 to share what ALL of the risk factors, symptoms, and screenings for oral cancer are. Ask what is currently available within our profession to help assist us in early diagnosis. When most patients are able to answer these questions, then you?ve pushed the envelope in this battle of awareness with success and perhaps helped to save someone's life!
Anastasia challenges dental professionals to continually raise the standard of patient care. She is an author in several dental industry publications and is published as an oral health source for numerous online consumer-based sites. Her weekly video blog on YouTube; Anastasia's Hump Day Happenings answers questions from the general public on oral health topics. She connects with dental professionals on her Facebook page as well. Anastasia is a spokesperson, independent consultant, working with several companies to develop website content, social media presence, continuing education programs and in-office training for dental hygiene departments on product integration with team communication.