Have a Story to Tell? Had a medical error?

This blog is about patient safety, medical malpractice, staying healthy, and preventing future errors. Help & empower someone else, Teach a lesson, Bear witness, Build our community - Email us or call 781-444-5525.

Frustrated with a health problem?

Need an ally in your health crisis? Call 781-444-5525, or learn more.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The highlight of my 28-year career: Early detection of oral cancer

Nancy is a registered dental hygienist. Here’s her story:
This 70-year-old woman has been a patient of mine for many years. Because of her periodontal disease history she comes in every 3 months for cleanings. She has been a smoker since she was 14 years old. She has smoking-related health problems - emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis. Her smoking has also taken a real toll on her oral health. Moderate bone loss, loss of teeth and a failed implant bridge.

During one of her cleanings I noticed a small red area on the floor of her mouth. Just an irritation? Maybe. But I couldn't ignore it. We sent her to the oral surgeon. The phone call was shocking! It was a squamous cell carcinoma. We caught it at a very early stage and they were able to remove it. No other treatment was needed. The oral surgeon's final words: "Congratulations, you saved her life." WOW! That for sure was the highlight of my 28 year career.

Cancer exams save lives! and PLEASE QUIT SMOKING!!!!!!! A final note: After 50 years of smoking this patient kicked the habit! Way to go!

Advice to people who haven't seen a dentist lately: It's uncomfortable but rarely painful. Call around first to see what they do to make it more comfortable for patients; then go.

Read another story on how timely dental care could have saved a life. Thanks to Dr. William L. Eickhoff of North Palm Beach, Florida for the post on his blog on July 9.

No comments: