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For Immediate Release

Contact: Richard T. Koenig
Phone: 202-547-7613
Fax: 202-546-1482

Oral cancer screenings are key to early detection

Washington, DC- Oral cancer screenings are key to early detection of a disease that will strike more than 30,000 individuals this year, taking nearly 8,00 lives says the District of Columbia Dental Society.

" In most cases, the disease will strike people over the age of 40," said Dr. Eugene Giannini, spokesperson for the District of Columbia Dental Society. "But like many other cancers, early detection can improve the chance of successful treatment"

This one of the primary reasons the District of Columbia Dental Society is alerting the American public to the early signs of oral cancer to motivate them to visit their dentist for an oral cancer screening, Dr. Giannini says. Screening is routinely part of dental examination.

Some of the many areas of the mouth, throat, head and neck that are inspected by dentists during a screening for oral cancer include the floor and roof of a patient's mouth. Dentists also examine the tongue for suspicious lesions and feel the lymph nodes in the neck area for any abnormalities.

Additionally, dentists can now perform quick, painless tests, such as a brush biopsy in which tissue specimens, taken from the mouth by a brush, undergo computer analysis to determine the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells. This test also may help determine the need for a surgical biopsy or follow-up.

In addition to age, other factors can increase the risk of developing oral cancer, Dr. Giannini warns. For example, oral cancers are more likely to occur among people who use tobacco products-cigarettes, cigars, pipes and smokeless varieties - and consume large amounts of alcohol.

"More than 25 percent of people who are diagnosed do not smoke or drink heavily," Dr. Giannini stresses. "This is another reason why individuals need to recognize the early warning signs and see their dentist regularly."

Adults also can take an active role in the early detection of oral cancer by doing self-examinations, according to Dr. Giannini. "This means looking into mirror and checking the lips, gums, cheek lining and tongue as well as the throat, floor and roof of the mouth for signs of the disease, "he explains.

Signs to look for include:
  • a sore that bleeds easily or does not heal;
  • a color change of the oral tissue;
  • a lump, thickening, rough spot crust or small eroded area; or
  • pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere in the mouth or on the lips.
If any of these signs or symptoms are noticed, contact your dentist immediatley for a professional examination, advises Dr. Giannini.

"When diagnosed early, the survival rate for oral cancer is high. The main problem is that in its earliest, most treatable stages, oral cancer generally causes no pain or discomfort and cannot be diagnosed visually," explains Dr. Giannini.

"Knowing the risk factors and taking steps to prevent potentially cancerous lesions from developing can go a long way toward limiting the influence of cancer can have on your life," Dr. Giannini emphasizes. "Starting today, make it a point to join your dentist in maintaining good oral health for life."

For more information about oral health issues, visit www.dcdental.org and the American Dental Association Web site at www.ada.org.