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ADA joins other dental organizations to promote cancer awareness in April

March 17, 2014

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, an opportune time to call attention to the disease and its prevention.

The ADA has joined again a consortium of dental organizations to support the Oral Cancer Foundation's annual awareness efforts concerning oral cancer and ways dentistry can help curtail morbidity and mortality associated with the disease.

The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the American Academy of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology, the American Academy of Periodontology, the Academy of General Dentistry and the American Academy of Oral Medicine are also part of the group effort supporting the OCF's annual observation. The campaign seeks to raise the awareness of oral cancer with the general public and in the dental and medical professions. OCF is a Newport Beach, Calif.-based nonprofit organization whose mission involves oral cancer prevention, education, research, advocacy and patient support.

"Dental practitioners can effectively observe Oral Cancer Awareness Month and best serve their patients by recognizing the risk presentations of oral cancer and precancerous lesions," said Dr. John Kalmar, president of the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology. "After every comprehensive oral examination, any findings should be clearly recorded and communicated to the patient, including a discussion of treatment options—including biopsy—and subsequent follow-up examination as indicated. Oral precancerous or cancerous lesions don't occur in every patient, but every patient deserves to know that such lesions were among the many possible conditions that were carefully considered by the dentist during each routine comprehensive oral exam."

"All dentists, dental specialists and dental hygienists who perform a comprehensive patient exam should know the risk factors, risk sites, and risk features of oral cancerous and precancerous or potentially malignant lesions," Dr. Kalmar said. "Cigarette and excessive alcohol use increases the risk for oral cancer, up to 15-fold in patients who both smoke and drink. Despite recent media attention on human papillomavirus and oropharyngeal or tonsillar cancer, current evidence suggests that only about 5 percent of oral cavity cancer may be HPV-related. High-risk sites for oral cancer include the ventral and lateral surfaces of the tongue, floor of mouth, and the anterior tonsillar pillars. While these sites together comprise only 20 percent of the surface area of the oral cavity, they give rise to roughly 75 percent of oral cancers.

"High-risk clinical presentations include sharply defined, leukoplakic lesions, especially those greater than 1 centimeter in size; non-homogenous or mixed red-white lesions; erythroplakic lesions; areas of persistent ulceration and indurated lesions."

According to National Cancer Institute estimates, there were 41,380 cases of oral cavity in 2013 and 7,890 deaths. NCI estimates that 1.4 percent of all cancer deaths are from oral cancers.

The OCF annually invites dentists to volunteer in their communities by providing free oral cancer screenings in April. Brian Hill, a stage 4 survivor of oral cancer and the foundation's founder, said 2,600 U.S. dental practices partnered with OCF last April providing free oral cancer screenings to walk-in patients.

"In April 2013, the Oral Cancer Foundation had 2,600 dental offices in the U.S. partner with us to do free screenings in their communities," Mr. Hill said. "There were some states that were not represented in that number with any screening partners. Our hope is that in 2014 we can break 3,000 screening partners and have every state covered."

OCF provides resources for participating dentists on its website at oralcancer.org.

The ADA has both consumer/patient information related to oral cancer and professional resources available to dentists.

Professional resources include information resources on ADA.org, continuing education courses and patient education products. Some professional information resources searchable on ADA.org include:

  • Statement on Human Papillomavirus and Squamous Cell Cancers of the Oropharynx
  • HPV-Associated Oropharyngeal Cancers Increasing in the U.S.
  • Smoking and Tobacco Cessation
  • Professional products for patient education include:
  • Get the Facts About Mouth and Throat Cancer (W151)
  • Quit Smoking: Better Health, Better Life, Better You (W126)

Each brochure is available to members as a pack of 50 for $26 and $39 retail. All patient education and personalized products are available at a savings of 15 percent with promo code 14118 through April 30. The brochures are available at adacatalog.org or by calling 1-800-947-4746.

Upcoming CE courses include Emerging Trends in the Diagnosis and treatment of Oral Cancer. Oct. 11, ADA 2014—America's Dental Meeting in San Antonio (ADA.org/meeting).

Consumer/patient information on oral cancer is available on MouthHealthy.