Be Aware, Be Proactive: Protect Against Oral Cancer Delta Dental of Tennessee warns oral cancer strikes victims of any age
NASHVILLE, Tenn., March 12, 2010 – The face of oral cancer is changing. In the past, oral cancer was perceived as a disease that attacked tobacco-using men over 40. Today, a growing number of healthy young people who lack traditional risk factors are being diagnosed. Regardless of age, Delta Dental of Tennessee (Delta Dental) is urging the public to be aware of the risks and warning signs of oral cancer and be proactive by limiting exposure to those risk factors and requesting a thorough oral cancer exam during every dental visit.
Twenty-four year old oral cancer survivor Shaylynn Phelps Grant is not the typical face of oral cancer. Two months prior to her October 2008 wedding, Grant noticed a sore on the base of her tongue and immediately scheduled a visit with her doctor, who told her the sore was a stress-related and prescribed antibiotics. Three months and two rounds of antibiotics later, the sore seemed to worsen—that’s when Grant was finally tested and diagnosed with oral cancer. “My doctor originally diagnosed my lesion as a stress ulcer and assured me that I was too young to have oral cancer,” said Grant. “When I was finally diagnosed with oral cancer, I was completely shocked, and all I could think about was that I was going to die. I went through all the phases—sadness, denial and finally I was just ready to fight it.” As a newlywed, Grant spent a year and half fighting the cancer with the support of her husband and family. After two surgeries, 37 rounds of radiation and eight rounds of chemo therapy, Grant was oral cancer free in November 2009. “Being cancer free and being a cancer survivor, I want to share my experiences,” said Grant. “When I first started talking to people about having oral cancer they looked at me like I was crazy, like I made up the disease. Now people are looking at their mouths and their bodies and contacting me with questions. People need to know about oral cancer and they need to advocate for themselves by asking their dentists for oral cancer exams.”
“Shaylynn is great model for people suffering with oral cancer everywhere,” said Dr. Jed Jacobson, chief science officer of Delta Dental. “She reacted at the first sign of a health issue and, through early detection and treatment, she now is able to passionately spread the word on a disease that kills one person every hour of every day in the United States.”
According to the American Cancer Society, oral cancer results in 7,600 deaths a year, and in 2009 there was an estimated 35,720 new cases of the disease. In response, Delta Dental is calling for people to ask their dental professionals for a thorough oral cancer exam every time they have dental services or cleanings. An oral cancer exam is a quick and painless method that may help catch cancer in early stages. The procedure involves an evaluation of the neck, head, mouth, gums, throat and tongue. During the process, dentists will use a piece of gauze to pull the tongue as far forward as possible and move it from side-to-side in order to check the harder-to-see areas of the tongue and the floor of the mouth for any indication of oral cancer. When oral cancer is found early, patients have an 80 to 90 percent survival rate; however the majority of oral cancers are not discovered until late stage where survival rate drops to 45 percent. Many cases are not diagnosed until late stages due to lack of public awareness of signs and symptoms. People should be on the lookout for the following signs and symptoms that are typically associated with oral cancer: Non-healing red or white spots that appear on the lips or anywhere inside the mouth or throat Tiny marks that resemble canker sores that last longer than two weeks A bulging lymph node on the neck The area behind the wisdom teeth no longer being symmetrical. Swelling of the tongue or throat A lump in the mouth or neck Numbness in the mouth region Vocal hoarseness that lasts for an extended time Sores that bleed and don’t heal (in later stages)
About Shaylynn Phelps Grant Shaylynn Phelps Grant is a Louisville, Ky., resident, daughter, wife to her high school best friend and mother to her dog—a blue heeler named Diesel. At 24-years old, Grant is an oral cancer survivor who strives to bring awareness to the disease. Check out her blog “Cancer Bites…But I Bite Back and Harder!!", where she and her husband Nick chronicle her survival against oral cancer.
About Delta Dental Since 1965, Delta Dental of Tennessee (Delta Dental) has grown to become the state’s largest, most experienced dental benefits carrier and has always shared its success by giving back to the communities it serves. In honor of its 45th anniversary, Delta Dental has launched the “45 Years, 45 Grants” campaign, a community grant program to provide support for oral health and children’s initiatives statewide. Delta Dental provides dental benefits to nearly 1 million members and is part of the Delta Dental Plans Association, which nationally provides benefits for more than 54 million people. For more information, visit www.DeltaDentalTn.com