Studies show a link between oral cancer and the human papilloma virus (HPV). Research in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that people infected with HPV are 32 times more likely to develop oral or throat cancers compared to the increased risk associated with smoking (three times more likely to develop these cancers) and drinking alcohol (two-and-a-half times more likely).
Some are attributing the correlation between oral cancer and HPV to changes in sexual practices in among young adults in recent decades, in particular an increase in oral sex. People with oral and oropharyngeal cancer linked to HPV infection tend to be younger and are less likely to be smokers and drinkers.
We'd like to introduce two young women who beat the odds and want to emphasize the life-saving importance of early detection.
Misdiagnosed at Age 30
At age 30, Jill found an unusual white area on her tongue. Her dentist referred her to an oral surgeon, who dismissed it: "You are too young for oral cancer." Even though she continued to have pain, Jill didn't receive her devastating diagnosis for eight more years: Stage 4 oral cancer. The life of the young mother of four took a dramatic change. Surgery was scheduled within a few days to remove the cancer, which had spread to her lymph nodes and neck. Today, Jill knows how lucky she is to be alive. Oral cancer is one of the least survivable cancers.
Jill can no longer eat normal food, she struggles to maintain weight and her teeth are slowly decaying due to the rigors of chemo and radiation. Despite all this, she is eager to share her story about trusting your intuition and pushing for an answer when the pain just won't go away.
Against All Odds
At age 27, Brooke had a great job, a fiancé and was in the home stretch of graduating in with a degree in human resources. But a routine trip to have her wisdom teeth removed set a new course for her life. Her surgeon noticed a strange spot and sent her to a colleague to have it removed with the assurance that at her age oral cancer was extremely rare.
But the pathology report said something different. She had stage one oral cancer. Brooke's promising career was put on hold, a battle with insurance companies began, and a once-happy engagement ended in disaster.
Yet today Brooke is something of a modern miracle. Her cancer is gone, she can speak normally, and she's back at work and finished with school. She's accomplished a great deal in her young life, but has one last goal - to help young people become of aware of how to detect oral cancer before it's too late.
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