My mom visited a dentist shortly before my wedding about her ill fitting denture and pain. A couple of months after my first wedding anniversary, she was diagnosed. Three weeks after surgery, the cancer returned. She lived only six months after her diagnosis. No one in our family knew anything about oral cancer or that it even existed.
Symptoms: non-healing sore under tongue
Treatment: Surgery and neck dissection. No chemo or radiation.
Delay: 6 months
JOHN from Michigan with his wife and two children.
I’m a hygienist and I quit smoking at age 28. I take great vitamins, exercise,and have a boring health history. I thought the healthy lifestyle I chose was supposed to prevent this sort of thing. Shocking that I actually control nothing. The best advice I can give is get a second opinion. Not only was I offered a treatment that did NOT include Chemo, but the team approach for decision making included me. If I can help even one person to avoid this path, either by education in advance, or by early detection, then I will be overjoyed!
KEN from Massachusetts(1967-2011)
Symptoms: Pain when brushing teeth.
Treatment: Multiple surgery, chemo, radiation.
Delay in DX: 1-2 years
Hi! I'm Stacy, the founder of TMJ Hope.
When I awoke in the ICU, I tried to gain my bearings then I remembered where I was. As I tried to catch my breath, I realized I was not breathing through my mouth but through a tracheotomy. Panic set in. My wife and the nurse calmed me down until I could “catch” my breath. This was the first moment in my new life as a survivor. When stationed in Iraq, I had a cold sore that came and went for 3 months. In Sept. 2009 it came back and stayed. It went untreated for 12 months and during that time I had 15 dental visits for teeth cleaning and crown work. At no time did I receive an oral cancer screening. The sore was very visible, the size of my thumb. During one visit, the dentist hit the sore with an instrument as I yelled out he said “sorry” and nothing else. I finally saw a specialist but by this time the lymph nodes in my neck were positive for squamous cell. My story doesn’t end here but I will continue to tell it to spare others from the same.
Symptoms: Sore on my tongue that didn’t go away.
I underwent 2 painful periodontal procedures to address the pain in my gums when brushing my teeth. After the 2nd treatment failed, I saw an oral surgeon, whose first words upon examining me were:”Whoops!” I had few spots on the bottom left side of my mouth way in the back, and they weren’t easy to see. Melanoma is often confused with pigmentation changes due to the silver in fillings. Melanoma of the mucous tissue is extremely rare and difficult to diagnose. The prognosis is normally poor-but in my case it is not progressing. The major medical centers in NYC suggested radical, disfiguring surgery. I chose to be treated by Dr. Peter Costantino, Lenox Hill Hospital, whom I credit for saving my face, and my life. Knowing I was a chef, my surgeon tried to preserve as much mouth function as possible. The only really awful part of my treatment over 5 years was having a tracheotomy during one of my surgeries. I felt like I was gagging on my own juices for weeks. My doctor was caring and smart enough to devise a way to avoid having to do that again on a later surgery.
Symptoms: Persistent sore on lateral tongue.
Symptoms: Sore that wouldn’t heal.
Treatment: Surgery to reconstruct left side of tongue and neck dissection
Delay in DX: 1 year