April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and while many people associate oral cancer with smoking or tobacco use, it’s important to know that oral cancer doesn’t discriminate. It impacts those with healthy lifestyles and a keen eye for oral health. Even dentists.
Dallas-area orthodontist Dr. Chad Capps was in his third year of dental school at Texas A&M University – Baylor College of Dentistry in 2006 when he noticed a small ulceration on the side of his tongue. He assummed he had bitten his tongue while sleeping and wasn’t overly concerned. But months later, the lesion hadn’t healed. Even after undergoing a laser ablation, it returned and grew larger. After six years of biopsies, an oncologist removed the lesion and found squamous cell carcinoma, a potentially dangerous cancer with the ability to spread throughout the body.
“I am blessed that we treated before the lesion had time to spread significantly into the surrounding tissue or lymph nodes,” said Dr. Capps. “But I’m humbled by the knowledge of how quickly oral [cancer] can become a very significant problem.”
Dr. Capps believes proactive screenings are vital to any patient, regardless of age or risk factors. “Providers and patients have to be proactive,” said Dr. Capps. “The general public needs to know how to self-screen. They are the first line of defense and can catch problems before anyone else. All providers should do a cancer screening on every patient, no matter the age.”
Dr. Capps is a father, a triathlete and a full-time dentist. He serves as Dallas County Dental Society’s Secretary/Treasurer on the Board of Directors and is an active member in his community. He is cancer-free, but continues to screen for signs and symptoms.
The Oral Cancer Foundation estimates nearly 50,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer in the US in 2016, which is why yearly screenings are so important. Oral cancer screenings can be life-saving. They only takes a few minutes in your dentist’s office, and early detection significantly reduces your risk. Don’t have a dentist? Find a Dallas County Dental Society member here.