Dentists, dental hygienists can detect head and neck cancer

Oct. 8, 2013 at 1:45 AM
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SACRAMENTO, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- Dentists and dental hygienists are the first line of defense in early detection of head and neck cancer, says the California Dental Hygienists' Association.

Nadine Lavell, president of the California Dental Hygienists' Association, said last June Hollywood actor Michael Douglas revealed his throat cancer was a result of the human papillomavirus, which infected him through oral sex.

"It is important to emphasize the necessity of regular examinations. This includes the importance of routinely checking the back of your throat when brushing your teeth and checking for lumps in your neck -- while shaving for example," Lavell said in a statement.

If you find any new lumps in the back of your throat or neck, seek further evaluation by your dental professional or primary care physician, Lavell said.

"The dental community is the first line of defense in early detection of the disease, since you see your dental hygienist more frequently than any other provider, a thorough oral cancer screening at your cleaning appointment is imperative to help detect any possible anomalies," Lavell said.

Unlike many other cancer screening procedures, there is no invasive technique necessary to look for head and neck cancer and:

-- No discomfort or pain involved.

-- It's very inexpensive to have your mouth examined by a dental hygienist for the early signs of disease.

-- The exam will include looking for abnormal or suspicious patches or lesions. If lesions are seen in the mouth, fluorescent illumination, staining, or biopsies might be used to find abnormal tissue that might develop into oral cancer.

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