Friday, April 12, 2013

Oral Cancer

Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April is a month for recognition and awareness of the ever growing concern of cancer, more specifically oral cancer.  Cancer is a word that can send shivers down anyone’s spine, but Drs. Versman, Heller, and Beckman will tell you that being proactive is the best way to keep this disease at bay.   

Approximately 42,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2013, and many patients will be unaware until a periodontist like Dr. Ken Versman, Dr. Doug Heller, or Dr. Eric Beckman diagnose it.  At Periodontal Associates we perform comprehensive periodontal exams on all of our Denver patients to detect not only gum disease but any abnormalities that may or may not be cancerous.  The ever growing concern of oral cancer is just one out many reasons why it important to keep up with bi-annual dental exams and cleanings.  Although proper cleanings alone cannot prevent oral cancer, as genetics, diet, and lifestyle are larger causes of cancers, the chances of early detection and treatment are more probable.   

One of the larger lifestyle risks for developing oral cancer is the use of tobacco products and smoking.  Some companies even claim ‘smokeless’ tobacco products like chewing tobacco are not as harmful as smoking; however it only less harmful in terms of lung cancer.  Smokeless tobacco is just as damaging in terms of periodontal (gum) disease, oral cancer, pancreatic cancer, and chronic infections.  Drs. Versman, Heller, and Beckman stress to their patients the need to avoid ALL tobacco products as it not only causes cancer and disease, but it also slows down the body’s ability to heal. 
In conjunction with tobacco, the HPV virus is another lead into why oral cancer is increasing especially in young non-smokers.  The human papilloma virus, or better known as HPV, is a disease transmitted sexually between partners.  It is known that HPV16, 1 strain out of 130, is increasing the incidents of oral cancer. Most people in the U.S. will contract some version of HPV but only 1% of those who contract HPV16 will have a decreased immune system in response.  The decreased immune system can then lead to cancers such as oral or cervical.  

Oral cancer is very hard to detect, and the reason the death rate is increasing due to oral cancer is mainly based on the late detection as those who are suffering from it do not notice the signs/symptoms or they are not visiting their dentist regularly.   Oral cancer can be painless and have little physical marks.  The benefit of visiting our office in Aurora, CO is that Periodontal Associates are gum specialists, meaning Drs. Versman, Heller, and Beckman will be able to notice the slightest of changes in the look or feel of tissue to detect signs of cancer first.   However, some noticeable changes to be aware of are white or red patches of tissues or small ulcers.  The mouth goes through many benign changes as we eat, drink, and speak so an exam with our periodontal specialists is the best method versus relying on home detection.  If you have experienced a sore or discolored area for more than 14 days, do not hesitate to visit our Aurora office.

Currently about 8,000 deaths a year are attributed to oral cancer, equaling about 1 death every hour.  Drs. Versman, Heller, and Beckman are your fist line of defense so be sure to come to Periodontal Associates in Aurora, CO for an exam today and we may save your life.  For more information, please call us at (303) 755-4500 or visit our website  at to learn about other periodontal concerns or dental implants. We look forward to watching over you and your family while providing the highest quality of dental health care.

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