Don’t Dismiss the Warning Signs of Oral Cancer

Dr. Cognetti examines Janice

Dr. Cognetti examines Janice

Janice’s journey started when the Poconos resident lost her ability to whistle. Stranger still, she found that she was biting her tongue a lot.

All this sent her to the dentist and then to her primary care doctor. Ultimately it was a year before her dentist ordered a biopsy.

That’s when she was diagnosed with tongue cancer. The cancer was also found in her lymph nodes.

Her radiation oncologist – a physician in the Poconos she continued to see regularly 10 years after successful breast cancer treatment – immediately sent Janice to Jefferson and the head and neck cancer specialists at our Center for Head and Neck Surgery.

Janice was never a smoker or a big drinker. She had none of the normal risk factors for oral cancer.

Moreover, tests showed that the oral cancer was unrelated to her earlier breast cancer.

Within a week of her initial diagnosis, Janice had an appointment with otolaryngologist David M. Cognetti, MD. A week later she was back in Philadelphia for surgery with Dr. Cognetti to remove the cancer.

The surgery went well and she was able to return home to the Poconos the next day. Janice, who had gone through breast cancer treatment 10 years earlier, recalls that the tough part was the radiation therapy that followed her surgery.

She is now cancer free for the second time.

cognetti and tara 200x175“I knew something was wrong,” Janice says thinking back. The lesson she says is “get it checked. You know your body, go and get tested.”

Some common symptoms or warning signs of possible oral cancer include:

  • A sore in the mouth that does not heal
  • A lump or thickening in the cheek
  • A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth that lasts more than 2 weeks
  • Change in voice or hoarseness that lasts more than 2 weeks.

On Wednesday April 17, the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson is offering free oral cancer screenings and education sessions to adults ages 18 and older from noon to 4 p.m with Dr. Cognetti.

According to the American Cancer Society, common risk factors of oral cancer include:

  • Tobacco use
  • Frequent use of alcohol
  • Diet low in fruits and vegetables
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection

Call 1-800-JEFF-NOW or use the online form to register.

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