Cancer and your mouth

BY KATHY LATOUR
PUBLISHED: SEPTEMBER 10, 2012
It's tempting to begin this blog with some kind of pun about putting some teeth into cancer, but as someone who has had issues with gum disease and root canals, I find nothing funny about the challenges our teeth can present.

And when we are dealing with cancer, those challenges can get complicated, which is why it amazes me that so little is said about dental issues and people with cancer. I guess it's because when you are diagnosed, your teeth and mouth and gums seem way down on the list, but let me tell you, a case of oral mucositis will get you thinking about your mouth really fast.

If you have ever had a canker sore in your mouth, imagine a whole mouth of those, that's what mucositis feels like, and it's one of the side effects of some cancer treatments.

Cancer brings up a number of other issues with your teeth and mouth. In fact, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research says one-third of people treated for cancer develop complications that affect the mouth, and many of the these problems may interfere with cancer treatment and diminish a patient's quality of life.

Last winter we did a story on Dennis Abbott DDS, a specialist in dental oncology, and the response has been amazing. Dr. Abbott is now a national consultant to the ACS and is working with another of our favorite interviewees, Sam LaMonte MD, to create new standards of care and guidelines for post-treatment cancer survivors. Dr. LaMonte, a retired head and neck surgeon who is a survivor of head and neck cancer, was the focus of the story I wrote in 2010 on late effects of radiation. Despite being an expert on head and neck cancer, Dr. LaMonte, who had extensive head and neck radiation, spent thousands trying to keep his teeth to no avail.

After the story we did on Dr. Abbott, he had patients and healthcare professionals reachout to him from around the country, including one patient who comes from Utah for treatment. We also did our first facebook chat with Dr. Abbott and had one patient contact us from Australia.

I just got a note from Dr. Abbott that he has added a pre-therapy link with basic recommendations for cancer patients to his website. So, if you are preparing for treatment or in treatment, check out these suggestions under patient services.

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Discussions CURE discussion group.
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