Live longer: Get screened for oral cancer

July 7, 2003
AGD dentists hosting free service at Nashville's Opry Mills to help detect patients at risk

Are you over 30? Do you forget to keep regular dental visits? Do you use tobacco products? Do you drink alcohol? Answering yes to one or more of these questions may place a consumer at risk for oral cancer, which has the lowest survival rate because it is not diagnosed early enough, according to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).

In an effort to educate the public and increase consumer awareness of the warning signs of oral cancer and the importance of early detection and prevention, experts attending the AGD's 51st Annual Meeting in Nashville, July 17-20, 2003 will host free oral cancer screenings on Thursday, July 17, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. CDT at Opry Mills mall. The screening is an officially sanctioned Healthy Nashville 2010 event.

Oral cancer, the sixth most common cancer, accounts for about 3.6 percent of all cancers diagnosed, with roughly 40,000 new cases of oral cancer reported annually in the United States. An average of 183 people die of oral cancer each year in Tennessee. The vast majority of oral cancers occur in people older than 45 years, with men being twice as likely as women to develop the disease.

The most frequent sites for oral cancer are the tongue, the floor of the mouth, tissues in back of the tongue, lips and gums. If not diagnosed and treated in its early stages, oral cancer can spread, leading to chronic pain, loss of function, irreparable facial and oral disfigurement following surgery and even death.

Oral Screening Test Saved Nashville Resident's Life

When Nashville resident Damion Young experienced a burning sensation and red spots in his mouth, he visited Nashville general dentist Bob Elam, DDS, MAGD, for a routine dental check up and asked Dr. Elam to inspect the sores. Dr. Elam performed a routine oral cancer screening on Mr. Young, and decided to refer him to an oncologist at Vanderbilt University. A biopsy proved Mr. Young had oral cancer.

"I knew there was something wrong when I saw the lesions, but I didn't know it was cancer," says Mr. Young. After surgery and six weeks of radiation, the oral cancer was gone. Mr. Young has now been free of oral cancer for almost two years.

"If detected early enough, oral cancer can be cured, which is why many dentists make this a part of their routine dental examination and why consumers should take advantage of this free service," says Dr. Elam.

Healthy Nashville 2010 Partners with AGD

The oral cancer screening is an officially sanctioned Healthy Nashville 2010 event. Healthy Nashville 2010 is a community based, community driven process that plans to identify and undertake strategies to improve health and quality of life for all residents of Nashville by the year 2010 and beyond. The Healthy Nashville Leadership Council, a committee of community representatives appointed by the mayor, guides the process. The ultimate goal of Healthy Nashville 2010 is to create a healthier community with a better quality of life.

Can't Make it To Opry Mills? Have Questions About Oral Cancer?

Consumers that miss the oral cancer screening event, co-sponsored by Colgate and Zila Pharmaceuticals, and have questions or concerns about oral health can call the SmileLine, a toll-free dental hotline also hosted by AGD members, on Friday, July 18, at 1-800-SMILE-33 (1-800-764-5333).