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Dr. Frank Vascimini’s office manager, Lisa, writes today’s column to give a personal account of oral cancer in her family. Look for Dr. Vascimini’s regular column to return next week.
I wanted to share some important information about oral cancer and how it has come into my life on a personal level. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Lisa and I have been Dr. Vascimini’s office manager since 1993.
My uncle, who is very much like my father, was diagnosed with oral cancer a few days before Christmas. His hygienist and dentist have no doubt saved his life.
At his last dental cleaning, his hygienist noticed a suspicious spot on his tongue. She alerted the dentist, and my uncle was sent for a biopsy.
The oral surgeon did the biopsy and it came back inconclusive.
Rather than wait and see what happens, the oral surgeon did another biopsy — and it confirmed my uncle does have oral cancer. My uncle has never smoked a day in his life.
On Christmas Eve morning, he had an appointment with the oncologist and they mapped out his course of treatment, which includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. With this type of surgery, and because of the location of the cancer on his tongue, he will have to have a feeding tube for a period of three to four weeks while his tongue heals.
As bad as all this sounds, he is a very lucky man.
His oncologist said if this was left undiagnosed, it would have spread into his lymph nodes and he would be looking at lymphoma, as well. I am happy to report his PET scan showed his cancer did not spread anywhere else.
He does a have a rough road ahead; however, he is healthy, has a great team of doctors and is being treated at one of the country’s most prestigious hospitals. He is expected to recover from this and lead a normal life.
One very important part of this story is how it all began and how his dental hygienist found this suspicious spot and so his story of cancer began.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of including your dentist as a member of your health care team. It’s also important to see the same dentist and hygienist, if possible; they really become very familiar with your mouth and can pick up on any changes quickly, just like my uncle’s hygienist did.
The misconception has always been that dentistry is just cosmetics — this is so far from the truth. Your dentist and hygienist are very important in caring for many aspects of your overall health.
I have always known that, and now it has hit too close to home. If you have been putting off going to your dentist for whatever reason, please make an appointment — it could save your life!
Dr. Frank Vascimini is a dentist practicing in Homosassa. Send your questions to 4805 S. Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa, FL 34446 or email them to him at info@MasterpieceDentalStudio.com.