"Oral cancer is a very sensitive subject for me. A close friend of mine was diagnosed with tongue cancer in her early 30s. "What? in her 30s? She must have been smoking and drinking a whole lot" you probably think... Hum Hum, you are wrong! What if I told you she is very healthy, non-smoker, drinks a few glasses of wine occasionally, exercises regularly, on top of being young, smart and beautiful. She ended up getting surgery on her tongue and neck, not once but twice because of relapse 4 years later (yes, they removed part of the tongue...). This included 2 surgeries, an incredible amount of stress, courage, hope and support later and way more worries that we can even imagine (choosing to not start a family is one of them). Needless to say more about this devastating decision), she's cancer-free today and is grateful for every single day life grants her with. But the fear stays forever...
Like many other victims of oral cancer, my friend was probably part of the 25% non-smoker oral cancer victims possibly affected by the HPV virus (Human Papillomavirus). This is the exact same virus that has been linked to cervical cancer and for which our young daughters are now being offered the new Gardasil vaccination program. Research has shown that cells found in the vaginal lining and the oral epithelium are very similar, therefore at risk to be attacked by the same kind of viruses. It is now clear that anyone who is between the age of 18-39 and who is sexually active presents with increased risk of contracting the HPV-16 or HPV-18 virus, automatically becoming at risk for oral cancer. That being said, the highest risk for oral cancer still goes to anyone over 40 y.o with lifestyle risk factors like tobacco and alcohol use or with an history of oral cancer.
We have Pap smears for cervical cancer, mammograms for breast cancer and PSA testing for prostate cancer but no testing has been made publically recommended for oral cancer. Bizarre considering the fact that, all stages combined, breast cancer has a 88.2% 5-year survival rate, cervical cancer a 77.3% rate, prostate cancer a 99.8% rate and oral cancer only 59.4% rate (SEER, 1975-2002, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, Nation Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD 2005)
In 2006, about 1350 new cervical cancer diagnosis were made from which we estimate the number of death at 390. In the same year, about 3500 new oral cancer diagnosis were made and about 1100 died from it. That is 3X then incidence and 2X the death rate!! So why aren’t we as aggressive at testing for oral cancer as we are at testing cervical cancer?
At our clinic, we certainly think that you deserve the opportunity to be screened early and regularly and that everyone should receive the highest standards of care. That’s why we offer the ViziLite Plus with TBlue test, the only FDA-cleared technology of its kind.
Known as Dr. Julie by all her loyal patients, Dr. Julie Boudreault graduated from University of Montreal with a Masters in Speech and Language Patholog and subsequently completed the Dentistry program with Honours at McGill Universtiy in 2005. She is an active and proud member of the Frontier Dental Institute (focus on Advanced Esthetic Dentistry and Veneers), The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (R.C.D.S.O.) and also participates in the Ontario Dental Association (O.D.A.).
Visit Dr. Julie at Milltown Dental in Milton, Ontario.