We’re Getting Serious about Oral Cancer Awareness

Dr. Razdolsky, an orthodontist in Buffalo Grove, and staff members walked in a recent oral cancer awareness walk.

Razdolsky Team Photo at OCA walk

Oral and pharyngeal cancer are serious illnesses that affect tens of thousands of Americans annually, and the team at Forever Smiles is working to raise awareness of this deadly disease.

Eight members of our staff participated in the Oral Cancer Foundation’s Walk/Run for Awareness in Bensenville Oct. 5, thanks to Lisa Schmidt, a hygienist who is our patient and organized it.

Oral cancer is not in the top 10 deadliest of cancers. More than 43,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer every year, and more than 8,000 people die from it, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. So why are we focusing on it? There are a couple of reasons.


1. Dentists and orthodontists can be the first ones to identify oral cancer.

Orthodontists and dentists often are the first medical professionals to detect signs of oral cancer, and that makes sense. You see your general dentist at least twice a year for routine cleanings and professional checkups. Those who are in orthodontic treatment tend to see their orthodontist every four to six weeks.

“Those of us in the dental and orthodontic communities are on the front lines of this battle,” says Dr. Yan Razdolsky an orthodontist in Buffalo Grove.

Approximately 60 percent of the U.S. population sees a dentist every year, but published studies report that fewer than 25 percent of those who go to the dentist say they received an oral cancer screening.

Patient compliance should be easy if more screenings were offered because they don’t involve invasive techniques, and they don’t result in discomfort or pain. It’s also inexpensive to have your mouth examined for the early signs of disease, according to the OCF.


2. Survival rates haven’t significantly improved over the years.

Even though oral cancer isn’t among the deadliest cancers, nearly half of all people diagnosed with it do not live beyond five years following their diagnosis. This is because by the time they usually are identified, the cancer has reached an advanced stage.

Some oral cancers respond better to treatments available today and that has resulted in a slight improvement in the survival rate over the past decade.

“This is good, but we want to see more oral cancers discovered and treated early,” Dr. Razdolsky says. “This will be a sign that we’re increasing awareness.”

The death rate for oral cancer is higher than that of cancers which many of us often hear about, including cervical cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma, laryngeal cancer, testicular cancer thyroid cancer, or skin cancer, according to the OCF website.