Small Roly-Poly Lump is Oral Cancer – RDH Saves a Life!

Submitted by Daphne Von Essen, RDH from California

Four months after graduating from dental hygiene school, I had a difficult patient. He was accustomed to seeing another hygienist who gave him full mouth anesthesia and spent over two hours with him. Nervously, I sat him down and started the numbing procedure. One hour into the appointment, I was instructed to numb the other half of his mouth. This is when I did the Oral Cancer Screening. I wanted him numb. I discovered a small roly-poly lump the size of a third of a grain of rice. I asked him if he was aware if this and he said it had been there three years. He thought it was a fibroma from his wearing a partial denture close to the lump.

The DDS looked at it and we brought him back a week later to have it biopsied. It was sent to UCLA to an oral pathologist. The news was not good. He had a very fast growing cancer that resulted in him loosing half his palate. The cancer was very high up in the vestibule and if not for doing the screening, I would not have found this.

Because of this experience 20 years ago, I have been faithfully looking in all my patients mouths since. Six months later I found another suspicious lump in a patients lip. This time it was a slow growing cancer.

To this day, I’m amazed how many patients tell me I am the only one that has ever given them an oral cancer screening. It takes two minutes to check. Think of the lives you save!

Three cheers for Daphne Von Essen, RDH!!

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