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Dental students help screen for oral cancer

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POSTED: Friday, April 20, 2012 - 12:00pm

UPDATED: Friday, April 20, 2012 - 12:04pm

The dental clinic at Florida's Nova Southeastern University provides care for the community at reduced rates.

Dental students there are doing more than taking care of teeth. T

hey are performing thorough oral cancer exams on every patient, under the supervision of a dentist on faculty.

"Fifty years ago dentists weren't trained specifically to do this. Starting in 2013, every dentist that comes out of dental schools in the US will be trained to do it," said Dr. Michael Siegel, chairman of the department of diagnostic services.

From a patient's perspective most are uniformed about oral cancer, even though there will be 40,000 new cases this year.

"I don't know that much about it," said Thomas Jordan.

"I haven't heard about it. My dentist never talked to me about it," said patient Vanessa Pedroso.

Assistant professor, Dr. Khadine Alston is passionate about putting oral cancer on the map.

She has organized walkathons in New York and this weekend the first in South Florida.

"We want to number one inform the community about oral cancer, what are the risk factors. We want to get especially people who are not likely to go to the dentist to know the importance of having such an exam and how it could impact and save their lives," said Alston.

Risk factors are tobacco and alcohol use, especially when the two are combined.

HPV, the human papilloma virus has also been linked to oral cancer.

Signs and symptoms include: a sore that does not heal, a red or white patch that persists, a lump or thickening in the mouth or neck.

"If you catch a tumor really early, ninety-five percent of the people are alive five years later. If you get it late, less than one in five is alive," said Siegel.

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