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Dr. Karen Lawitts

100 Intrepid Lane
Syracuse, NY 13205

(315) 492-8138
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Posts for tag: oral cancer

4ThingsYouCanDoToProtectOralHealthDuringCancerTreatment

Despite momentous strides in recent years in the fight against cancer, treatments can still disrupt normal life. Both radiation and chemotherapy have side effects that can cause problems in other areas of health—particularly the teeth and gums.

If you or a loved one are undergoing cancer treatment, it's important to get ahead of any potential side effects it may have on dental health. Here are 4 things that can help protect teeth and gums while undergoing cancer treatment.

Get a preliminary dental exam. Before beginning treatment, patients should have their dentist examine their teeth and gums to establish a baseline for current dental health and to treat any problems that may already exist. However, patients should only undergo dental procedures in which the recovery time can be completed before starting radiation or chemotherapy.

Be meticulous about oral hygiene. Undergoing cancer treatment can increase the risks for developing tooth decay or gum disease. That's why it's important that patients thoroughly brush and floss everyday to reduce bacterial plaque buildup that causes disease. Patients should also reduce sugar in their diets, a prime food source for bacteria, and eat “teeth-friendly” foods filled with minerals like calcium and phosphorous to keep teeth strong.

Keep up regular dental visits. The physical toll that results from cancer treatment often makes it difficult to carry on routine activities. Even so, patients should try to keep up regular dental visits during their treatment. Besides the extra disease prevention offered by dental cleanings, the dentist can also monitor for any changes in oral health and provide treatment if appropriate.

Minimize dry mouth. Undergoing cancer treatment can interfere with saliva production and flow. This can lead to chronic dry mouth and, without the full protection of saliva against dental disease, could increase the risk of tooth decay or gum disease. Patients can minimize dry mouth by drinking more water, using saliva boosters and discussing medication alternatives with their doctor.

It may not be possible to fully avoid harm to your oral health during cancer treatment, and some form of dental restoration may be necessary later. But following these guidelines could minimize the damage and make it easier to regain your dental health afterward.

If you would like more information on dental care during cancer treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Health During Cancer Treatment.”

ThisYoungWomansCancerExperienceaTeachableMomentforallofus

With college, a full-time job and an upcoming wedding to plan, Brooke Vitense had the hectic life of an average young woman in her twenties. But a chance discovery one morning would completely upend her normal life.

That morning Brook noticed white spots on the underside of her tongue while brushing her teeth. Not long after, she pointed out the spots to her dentist during her regular dental checkup. He recommended having the spots biopsied, just to be safe. She needed a wisdom tooth removed, so she scheduled the biopsy with her oral surgeon to coincide with the tooth extraction.

She soon forgot about the biopsy — until her dentist contacted her about the results. The lesions were pre-cancerous: he recommended she have them and a portion of her tongue removed surgically as soon as possible.

She underwent the procedure, but that wasn't the end of her ordeal. The follow-up pathology report indicated cancerous cells in the tissue excised during the procedure. To ensure elimination of any remaining cancerous cells they would need to remove more of her tongue as well as the lymph nodes from her neck.

Brooke survived her cancer experience and has since resumed her life. Her story, though, highlights some important facts about oral cancer.

Oral cancer is life-threatening. Although cases of oral cancer are rarer than other types of malignancies, the survival rate is low (50%). This is because lesions or other abnormalities are often dismissed as simple sores. Like any cancer, the earlier it's detected and treated, the better the chances for survival.

Anyone of any age can develop oral cancer. While most cases occur in older adults, young and otherwise healthy people like Brooke are not immune. It's important for everyone to make healthy lifestyle choices (good oral hygiene and nutrition, moderate alcohol use and avoidance of tobacco) and see a dentist whenever you see an abnormal sore or spot in your mouth.

Regular dental checkups are crucial for early detection. Had Brooke not seen her dentist soon after discovering the spots on her tongue, her survivability could have been drastically lower. Regular dental visits (and cancer screenings if you're at high risk) could mean all the difference in the world.

If you would like more information on the signs and treatment of oral cancer, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can watch Brooke's interview by visiting How a Routine Dental Visit Saved My Life

By Drs Lawitts
April 23, 2019
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral cancer  
ToDetectOralCancerEarlySeeYourDentist

This month marks the 20th annual observance of Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Last year, over 50,000 people in the US were diagnosed with oral cancer, and over 10,000 people died from the disease. The 5-year survival rate for oral cancer is only around 57%, making it more deadly than many other types of cancer. But if oral cancer is caught and treated early, the 5-year survival rate jumps to over 80%. This is one reason why regular dental checkups are so important—we can be your best ally in detecting oral cancer in its early stages.

Oral cancer is particularly dangerous because it often develops without pain or obvious symptoms. Early detection greatly improves the chances of successful treatment, but signs of the disease frequently go unnoticed until the cancer is advanced. Fortunately, dentists and dental hygienists are trained to recognize signs of oral cancer in the early stages, when it is most treatable. Oral cancer can appear on any surface of the mouth and throat, with the tongue being the most common site, particularly along the sides, followed by the floor of the mouth. As part of a regular dental exam, we examine these surfaces for even subtle signs of the disease.

Screenings performed at the dental office are the best way to detect oral cancer, but between dental visits it's a good idea to check your own mouth for any of the following: white or red patches, lumps, hard spots, spots that bleed easily or sores that don't heal. Let us know if any of these symptoms don't go away on their own within two or three weeks.

Using tobacco in any form is a major risk factor for oral cancer, especially in combination with alcohol consumption. Although the majority of people diagnosed with oral cancer are over age 55, the fastest growing segment of new diagnoses are among young people due to the rise in cases of sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) in young adults.

A routine dental visit can do much more than preventing and treating tooth decay and gum disease—it might even save your life! If you have questions about oral cancer or are concerned about possible symptoms, call us as soon as possible to schedule an appointment for a consultation.

ReduceYourOralCancerRiskwithBetterDietandLifestyleChoices

You probably know practicing healthy dietary and lifestyle habits can help prevent tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. But good habits could also lower your risk for a more dangerous type of disease — oral cancer.

There are several risk factors for oral cancer, including those you can't do much about like your genetic makeup or unknown elements in the environment. But there are factors you can influence with your actions.

You're probably familiar with the links between tobacco use (both smoked and smokeless) and oral cancer. But excessive alcohol use could also increase your risk, as can risky sexual behavior that could expose you to human papilloma virus (HPV) 16.

And what you eat — or don't eat — could also influence your cancer risk. Research over the last half century has uncovered a link between diet and cancer. Cancer development seems to begin with damage to DNA, the genetic material that “tells” each of our cells what it is and what it does in the body. Substances called carcinogens found in the environment — including the foods we eat — can damage our DNA and open the door for cancer to development.

But some foods also contain elements that protect our DNA from carcinogenic damage. Some of these are known as antioxidants, which protect cells from unstable molecules called free radicals. You'll find antioxidants, as well as other protective substances like fiber, vitamins and lycopene in plant-based foods, particularly fruits and vegetables.

Eating a plant-based diet also means you'll eat fewer foods that contribute to the rise of free radicals like saturated fat, animal protein and nitrates (a chemical that occurs in some food processing). A healthy diet, along with quitting tobacco use and moderating alcohol consumption, will help not only preventing decay or gum disease, it will also drastically lower your risk for oral cancer.

If you would like more information on oral cancer prevention, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer.”

By Drs Lawitts
April 03, 2015
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral cancer  
FiveThingsYouShouldKnowAboutOralCancer

Like a shadowy figure hovering at the edge of the movie frame, cancer may be scariest when you can't see it clearly. That's why, instead of looking away, many people have chosen to take a proactive attitude toward the disease. They're learning about the benefits of prevention, early detection and treatment — and so can you. How much do you know about oral cancer? Here are five fast facts.

Oral cancer isn't just an older person's disease.

In the past, people over 40 years of age were the main population group in which oral cancer was found. But in recent years, a growing number of young people have also been diagnosed with the disease. The sexually transmitted Human Papilloma Virus (HPV16) is thought to be responsible for the increase in oral cancer among younger people.

Oral cancer can de deadly.

While it accounts for just 2-3% of all cancers, its survival rate is far lower than lots of cancers you've heard more about. Why? Because its symptoms can be hard to tell from more benign mouth sores, and isn't caught in the early stage often enough. When discovered in its later stages, the 5-year survival rate for this disease is just 58%.

There are several risk factors for oral cancer.

Moderate to heavy drinkers and users of tobacco products — whether smoked or smokeless — are at far greater risk than non-users. Chronic exposure to the sun, besides leading to skin cancer, is also clearly associated with cancers of the lip. And, because of HPV, the same risk factors for other sexually transmitted diseases apply to oral cancer as well. Genetic predisposition also plays a role, as it does in many other diseases.

Lifestyle choices can decrease the odds of getting oral cancer.

Obviously, giving up tobacco, moderating alcohol consumption and avoiding risky sexual behavior will mitigate these risk factors. But you can also lessen your chances of getting the disease by eating a healthy diet. Studies have shown that a high intake of fruits and vegetables is protective against oral cancer — and other cancers as well.

Early detection boosts the survival rate for oral cancer above 80%.

Yet the earliest symptoms of oral cancer are hard for many people to distinguish from common maladies like cold sores. What's the best way to detect it? Do something you should be doing anyway — get regular dental checkups! We're trained to find the signs of a potential problem via a quick, painless screening that can be done at your routine checkup. We can also schedule biopsies or other diagnostic tests if they're needed.

If you have concerns about oral cancer, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Oral Cancer” and “Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer.”



Dr. Karen Lawitts

Dr. Karen Lawitts

 

 

Dr. Lawitts was born and raised in Syracuse, NY. She received her Bachelor of Science and D.D.S degree from Northwestern University in Chicago.  
       
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