Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Medical Reports: Oral Cancer
This year, more than 34,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer, a cancer that has a higher death rate than cervical cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma, and even skin cancer. But in today's Healthcast, Seven's Christine Cruz shows us how a new treatment may give doctors a way to stop oral cancers before they start.
WSVN -- They're often detected in a routine dental or doctor's exam. red or white lesions called Leukopakia, that can turn into serious, even deadly oral cancers.
Mike Hagerman: "I do happen to know people that have died of this kind of cancer, and so we watch it very closely."
Former smoker Mike Hagerman is a two-time oral cancer survivor.
Stuart Wong, MD, Medical Oncologist: "I see a white patch in the back of your mouth."
Now, Mike's Leukoplakia is back. This time, he's part of a study testing a new laser treatment designed to get rid of precancerous cells.
Stuart Wong: "And when the laser fires onto the lesion, it emits light at a very specific frequency that causes free oxygen radicals that destroy the lesion."
Researchers have tested the laser on the hand and in the mouth, and they say the laser doesn't hurt. It is, however, a preventive measure that doctors say could save lives.
Stuart Wong: "There is some emerging data that the better we can kill off these early precancerous lesions, that might translate later down the road many, many years to a decreasing the development of cancers, and that's the goal."
Oral cancer has a five year survival rate of less than 50 percent. Doctors say early detection can be crucial, so it's important to check your mouth regularly. If you see a red or white spot or feel something irregular, get it checked immediately.
Mike Hagerman: "I'm going to have to be aware of it for the rest of my life."
Mike hopes with good medical care and a little vigilance, he can stay cancer free.
Doctors say don't be fooled, even if you're not a smoker, you can still get oral cancer. Recent research shows the fastest growing segment of the oral cancer population are non-smokers under the age of 50.