Thank you for your dedication to this cause. I ashamedly admit that in my 30+ years as a dentist I have become lax about the thoroughness and frequency of my head and neck exams in my practice. But I must tell you a short story…
About 9 months ago I was doing a routine examination on a long term patient. She was in the practice for years prior to my purchasing the practice. There was a notation in her record regarding an “abnormality” on the ventral lateral aspect of her tongue, as you know a high risk area for oral cancer. I read the note and did an exam. I wanted to refer her for biopsy. She refused saying, ‘It’s nothing and been there for years.’ I ignored it.
Fast forward about a year. I again did her routine check up, read my note, saw the lesion, and was a bit more insistent this time in spite of her similar arguments to not bother. I would not let her out of the chair until she promised to go for a biopsy. She agreed if she could wait until after her upcoming cruise. I acquiesced, gave her the referral and she promised to go.
One month later, I was in the office doing paperwork on a non-clinic day when we were closed to patients. My wife was working in the front. A lady came in demanding to see me. My wife explained to her that we were not seeing patients. She did not recognize the woman as a patient and the woman was being very secretive about her reason to want to see me. My wife reluctantly asked her to sit down and went to get me. When the woman saw me rounding the corner, she ran to me, hugging me, through the sobbing saying, “Thank you for saving my life and allowing me to enjoy my grandchildren for years to come!”
It was the woman I referred for a biopsy. It was malignant but thankfully well-contained and the impact relatively minimal. It was that day that I decided to rededicate my career to orofacial pain and oral medicine and do my part in the diagnosis and detection of this all too silent killer. I am now enrolled in the USC Dental School Master’s program in OFPOM. I kick myself in the rear end every time I think about how the alternative outcome had I allowed complacency and a lax attitude. It won’t happen again!
I have practiced general dentistry for 30+ years and no case has been as rewarding. I am ashamed that I let it go as long as I did but thank God I finally insisted on treatment and saved her life and quality of life. This year we have lost 2 patients to their battle with oral cancer and a number of others diagnosed and treated. We are as you rightly state the first line of defense and we need to do more.
I just printed the Six-Step Screening Card and it will be given to all my patients. Thank you for being the beautiful face of oral cancer awareness.
Robert T. Cadalso Jr. D.D.S.
Mission Viejo California
On behalf of all oral cancer survivors, we thank you for your dedication, integrity and advocacy for a cause very close to our hearts….no our mouths! Eva