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Dentists Helping Discover Oral Cancers

Getting a dental check up means more than having your teeth and gums prodded and poked. Dentists also screen for cancer.
Getting a dental check up means more than having your teeth and gums prodded and poked.  Dentists also screen for cancer. 

Lynda Hutzler knows that a visit to the dentist is not just about cavities and gum disease.  It can save your life.
"I started having this burning sensation in the tongue area and the back of the throat."

When the symptoms lasted more than a few weeks, her dentist suspected it might be oral cancer. 
"She did a thorough exam and sent me immediately to the hospital,"  Hutzler says.

If caught early oral cancer has a very good survival rate.

This type of cancer often affects long term tobacco users, but dr. Jane puskas says young people are getting diagnosed more and more, often because of the HOV, the human papillomavirus. 

"The research has shown that there is a relationship between hpv and cervical cancer and there is a similar relationship between hpv and oral cancers," says Dr. Jane Puskas, president of Hinman Dental Society.

Most bumps or sores in the mouth are not cancer, but if you notice any changes in your oral health tell your dentist, especially if the problem doesn't go away.

"It could be a sore spot on the gum, or cheek, or on your tongue//is it a red patch, is it a white patch.  Is it an ulcer that's just not healing," explains Dr. Puskas. 

They don't know the cause of lynda's cancer, but they do know that early detection was key.  "I feel so grateful and i'm so thankful."


(Holly Firfer for CNN's Health Minute)


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