The C-Word

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The C-Word

THE C-WORD. WHAT’S YOUR VIEW?

Words By Joe Earl, Marketing Manager for Dental Sky with over 20 years experience within the dental industry.

Photography: hospitherav.com

 

The C-Word

There aren’t many of us whose lives haven’t been touched by cancer in some way.  If we’re lucky enough not to have been a victim ourselves, we’re sure to know someone who has. Personally, I had thyroid cancer in my early 20s that would have been spotted by a dentist had I been regularly attending appointments!

Dental teams have a responsibility to screen and increase awareness of oral cancer – telling patients, without scaring them, that oral cancer refers to cancers of the tongue, lips, lining of the mouth/cheeks and oropharynx. This should provide reassurance that they are visually checking for early signs, as every year there are nearly 5,000 new cases reported.

The causes

So, what causes oral cancer?  There isn’t a definite answer, and in some patients the exact cause is unknown, but there are certainly some definite risk factors, which need to be talked about.  Smoking and alcohol are two common causes.  Both substances contain nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic chemicals.  It is estimated that around three quarters of oral cancer cases are linked to smoking, chewing tobacco and alcohol.  Once aware of the risks, patients clearly need to make some lifestyle choices. A poor diet can also be a causative factor.  A diet lacking in vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin A and zinc) is known to increase cancer risk.  Conversely, fresh fruits and vegetables reduce the risk of contracting cancer.

Studies suggest that human papillomavirus (HPV), specifically HPV16, is associated with oral cancer.  HPV Action is an organization that believes both girls and boys should be vaccinated against HPV infection, as by doing so, it would significantly reduce the burden of the disease on both sexes.  It reports that HPV causes 1,412 head and neck cancers, a strong case for the national immunization programme to be extended to include 12-13 year old boys as well as girls.  The British Dental Association, as a member of HPV Action, is urging the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to consider blanket immunisation against HPV.  The Oral Health Foundation has also reiterated their call for the urgent introduction of gender-neutral HPV vaccination in the UK in order to stop a rapid increase in mouth cancer cases.

The symptoms

As with most cancers, the earlier the tumour is caught, the better the chances of survival.  Common symptoms (which don’t always indicate oral cancer!) are:

  • Red and white patches inside your mouth
  • Ulcers or sores that do not heal in 14 days
  • A lump in the neck
  • Pain or bleeding in the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent pain in the throat or ear
  • Speech problems.

Screening

Sadly oral cancer is often caught in the late stages, which is why mortality rates are higher.  If caught early, the survival rate is over 85% when cancers are small, which is why it’s imperative that all dentists look for signs during dental check-ups (assuming patients attend at least once a year!). If patients feel particularly anxious you might like to suggest that they perform self-examination with a dental mirror to check for any abnormalities. They should also run their finger around their mouth and tongue to check for lumps and feel around their neck. Anything even remotely unusual should be reported to either a dentist or their GP.  It’s ironic that we’re encouraged to do self-checks for breast and testicular cancer, but the majority of the public will not really give much thought to checking the inside of their mouths.

As well as visual screening, practices are also using technology to assist in diagnosing early carcinogen lesions. One such device is Goccles – oral cancer screening glasses. These allow the clinician to run a simple, non-invasive and painless test using the technology of fluorescence and cell-tissue autofluorescence by utilising the wavelengths emitted by curing-lights, a common piece of equipment in all dental practice.  This allows the user to see in a clear and accurate way any anomalies of the oral cavity.

Communication is key

No Smoking Day, an annual public health campaign in March that has been running since Ash Wednesday in 1983 (when it was called Quit for the Day). The campaign is re-designed every year to help spur smokers into action.  As dental professionals, it gives us an ideal platform to raise concerns regarding the risks of smoking, as there will be lots of coverage in the media.  It’s not about forcing people to quit, or making people feel guilty about their addiction, it’s just an opportunity to talk about the issue and offer support for those who want to try giving up.

Looking to the latter part of the year, there’s Mouth Cancer Action Month, a charity campaign which aims to raise awareness of mouth cancer and make a difference by saving thousands of lives through early detection and prevention. It is organised each year by the Oral Health Foundation.  Throughout November they aim to get more mouth cancers diagnosed at an early stage by increasing education of the risk factors and signs and symptoms while encouraging everybody to discuss them with their dental professional. It’s great that these awareness programmes are taking hold, but as dental professionals, lets keep talking to anyone who’ll listen!

Check out the video below where Hitesh Patel discusses how all it really takes is 60 seconds to save a life!

GOCCLES®

Most dentists routinely screen patients for oral cancer, but how confident are you in detecting an early cancerous lesion? Sadly, oral cancer is often caught in the late stages, which is why mortality rates are higher.  If caught early, the survival rate is over 85% when cancers are small.

As well as visual screening, practices are also using technology to assist in diagnosing early cancerous lesions. One such device is Goccles®, Oral Cancer Screening Glasses. These allow the clinician to run a simple, non-invasive and painless test using the technology of fluorescence and cell-tissue autofluorescence by utilising the wavelengths emitted by curing-lights, a common piece of equipment in all dental practice.  This allows the user to see in a clear and accurate way any anomalies of the oral cavity.  The basic principle is that the auto-fluorescence of abnormal cells lining the mouth when exposed to light, differs to that seen occurring in normal cells. Goccles® glasses allow the clinician to see differences in auto-fluoresence of the tissues, with normal cells appearing green and abnormal cells dark.

GOCCLES®

Most dentists routinely screen patients for oral cancer, but how confident are you in detecting an early cancerous lesion? Sadly, oral cancer is often caught in the late stages, which is why mortality rates are higher.  If caught early, the survival rate is over 85% when cancers are small.

As well as visual screening, practices are also using technology to assist in diagnosing early cancerous lesions. One such device is Goccles®, Oral Cancer Screening Glasses. These allow the clinician to run a simple, non-invasive and painless test using the technology of fluorescence and cell-tissue autofluorescence by utilising the wavelengths emitted by curing-lights, a common piece of equipment in all dental practice.  This allows the user to see in a clear and accurate way any anomalies of the oral cavity.  The basic principle is that the auto-fluorescence of abnormal cells lining the mouth when exposed to light, differs to that seen occurring in normal cells. Goccles® glasses allow the clinician to see differences in auto-fluoresence of the tissues, with normal cells appearing green and abnormal cells dark.

The eyewear is comfortable to wear and permits the simultaneous wearing of standard glasses. The light source is held by an assistant, leaving the examining clinician with both hands free to reflect the oral soft tissues with dental mirrors to ensure that the entire oral mucosa is assessed.

Goccles® are distributed exclusively through Dental Sky. For more information click here

Comments
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Deepak
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Great topic. Thank you for sharing the information with us. keep posting. good luck.cheers..
Mrs Gay Cadden
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I highly recommend that everyone goes to the dentist every six months. My husband who only had 2 teeth didn't go as we wasn't aware of mouth cancer. My husband had an ulcer on the inside of his cheek and went to the Drs and it turned out to be cancer. Within six weeks my husband had his operation and radiotherapy, but unfortunately he died 7 months after finding out he had it. The thing with my husband was he would just put up with pain and get on. He didn't tell me he had this ulcer, so it had taken hold. No matter how scared you are please see a dentist, and save yourself and others the pain and suffering.