Advocate, Screen & Educate in the Fight Against Oral Cancer | Las Vegas Heals
A foundational element of Roseman University’s mission is to “impact the health, education, and wellness of the communities it serves,” and the University delivers...

A foundational element of Roseman University’s mission is to “impact the health, education, and wellness of the communities it serves,” and the University delivers on this promise in many ways. Awareness and education about diseases impacting the lives of those around us is–and has always been–a part of Roseman’s work in the community.

the 4thAnnual Oral Cancer Foundation 5K Walk/Run for Awareness on April 8, hosted by Roseman’s American Student Dental Association (ASDA) Chapter. The event was held at the East Riverfront Park in South Jordan, Utah. Despite the rainy, cold day, there were 96 participants, approximately 65 oral cancer screenings administered and over $7,200 was raised for the Oral Cancer Foundation.

On the Summerlin Campus, two Roseman faculty, Dr. Kishore Chaudhry, MBBS, MD, DNB, Research Professor in the College of Dental Medicine and Dr. Carolyn Glaubensklee, BS, MS and PhD, Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences, College of Medicine, came together to present “Surviving Oral Cancer” to over 30 community members in the evening of April 20.  They provided unique perspectives of cancer survivor, physician, and researcher. With cancer survivors and caregivers of those with cancer in attendance, it was a very moving event.

While Dr. Glaubensklee and Dr. Chaudhry spoke of Oral Cancer from different perspectives, they jointly communicated that screening and early detection are both key in fighting this disease.  For Dr. Glaubensklee, an irritated area in her mouth was diagnosed as Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Dr. Glaubensklee was not a smoker, nor did she have any of the risk factors for the disease. After several surgeries and multiple rounds of radiation, and the love and support of her family and friends, Dr. Glaubensklee is cancer-free.

Dr. Chaudhry focused on the multiple risk factors for Oral Cancer, including tobacco or smokeless tobacco, heavy alcohol use, HPV infection, genetic factors, oral hygiene, Candida infection or chronic trauma. With over 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, at least 69 can cause cancer. More research is needed on vaping and whether or not it too leads to increased risk of Oral Cancer.

In 2016, about 48,330 new cases of Oral Cancer were diagnosed in the U.S., with roughly 9,570 deaths in the same year. The disease seemed to be decreasing in prevalence in the 1990s, but has shown an increase in recent years. NIH projects the number of new cases in 2017 is likely to be close to 50,000.

Overall, five-year survival rates have increased marginally from 57 percent in 1990 to the current rate of 64 percent, largely due to early detection. However the potential of early detection has not been fully realized which if fully implemented could increase the five-year survival rate to around 90 percent. In Nevada, 15.8 percent of cancers in males are attributed to Oral Cancer, and in women, 5.4 percent of cancers are Oral Cancer. Incidence rates of this disease rise sharply between the ages of 45-50 and in Nevada is significantly higher than cervical cancer, a disease which women are screened for through annual pap smears. It is an irony that we don’t yet have a screening program for oral cancer which can be detected early merely by clinical examination and without sophisticated tools.

The need for increased oral screening is very real, for early detection is critical in this disease. With very few symptoms, signs of Oral Cancer are painless small ulcers, nodular lesions or growths. Consistently swollen or sore gums can also point to a problem. White or red painless lesions may precede cancer by many years and their identification can help in preventing invasive cancer. With a long preclinical phase, these lesions/cancers can be easily identified by trained physicians, dentists and paramedical workers through careful visual inspection and palpation. But patients must know the warning signs and alert their medical professionals to a potential problem. After biopsy, CT, MRI or PET scan, staging ensues which helps guide the course of treatment. Stage I and II Cancers are effectively treated like Dr. Glaubensklee’s cancer, with Surgery and Radiotherapy. Stage III and IV would include additional chemotherapy, Chemo-radiation, or therapy targeted at genes.

There is much research yet to be done. Roseman University wishes to embark on an Oral Cancer Screening Program, which will both help patients as well as provide invaluable data to begin to answer some of the outstanding questions that still exist. Information gaps exist in the understanding of the course of this disease, such as transformation rates of OPMD’s (Oral Potentially Malignant Disorders) to invasive cancer, frequency of screening, genetic/biochemical changes connected to various stages, and development of standardized clinical follow up algorithm with identification of relevant biomarkers.

For those interested in learning more, please join Dr. Chaudhry on December 7, 2017, from 5:30-7:00 p.m. at the Summerlin Campus to hear about Dr. Chaudhry’s work published in the peer-reviewed journal, Journal of Oral Biology and Craniofacial Research on Pan Masala (a chewed tobacco common in India): Habits and Risk of Oral Precancer: A cross-sectional survey in 0.45 million people of North India. Please RSVP by calling 702-802-2872.

Includes excerpts from the Neighborhood Health Series presentation, “Surviving Oral Cancer,” on April 20, 2017.

Vanessa Maniago
Special Advisor to the President
Roseman University of Health Sciences