UCC Mainstream Online

Oral Health Fair

Free cancer and blood pressure screenings offered at health fair

The phrase “bad oral hygiene” is often associated with third world countries or clichés about the British; it isn’t exactly a phrase brought up in polite conversation. But it should be – according to local dentist Alexis Atchinson, oral cancer kills one person per hour, 24 hours a day. Over 45,000 people will be newly diagnosed this year.

On Saturday, April 25, the Douglas County Health Action Group will present its inaugural Oral Health Fair. Free oral cancer screenings as well as blood pressure screening will be given by dentists, physicians and dental hygienists. Children can meet the “Tooth Fairy” as well as get a chance to win prizes from the UCHC’s “Wheel of Smiles.” Each adult screened will be entered into a raffle for prizes. The screenings are quick and painless, about three to five minutes.

Oral cancer kills one person per hour, 24 hours a day. Early screening can save lives.

Screening can save lives. Of the 45,000 plus people who will acquire oral cancer this year, only slightly more than half will be alive in five years because screening is so infrequent. When oral cancer is found early through routine oral screenings and patient education, the survival rate is 80 to 90 percent, according to Atchinson.

The death rate for oral cancer is higher than cervical cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, thyroid and skin cancer.

Oral cancer is more common in men than in women, which can be attributed to both tobacco and alcohol usage.  “About 80 percent of people with oral or oropharyngeal (throat) cancers use tobacco in the form of cigarettes or chewing tobacco,” according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.  Tobacco use in Douglas County is about 25 percent, when compared Oregon at 19 percent and around 17 percent for the U.S., said Atchinson. “Tobacco usage and the Human Papilloma Virus make up for [cause] 93 percent of all oral cavity and oropharyngeal (throat) cancers,” said Atchinson.

Other factors for oral cancer are immune system deficiency diseases or the use of immune system suppression drugs for organ transplants. About 25 percent of patients with oral cancer are infected with the same HPVs as seen with cervical cancer.