Yesterday, Community Health Center of Meriden celebrated National Health Center Week by offering free oral cancer screenings to patients of the health center and community members.
About 39,000 Americans each year are diagnosed with oral cancer, a cancer that can develop in the lips, mouth, or back of the throat. With about 8,000 deaths in America each year from oral cancer, CHC has decided to educate patients about the nature of the disease and how to prevent it.
Certain risk factors can increase a person’s likelihood of developing oral cancer. One such factor is smoking tobacco, including cigars, cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco. Other risk factors include drinking large quantities of alcohol, a personal history of oral cancer, a personal history of HPV, and sun exposure.
Quitting smoking can greatly reduce the risk of developing oral cancer. CHC offers a smoking cessation program called Rewards to Quit for eligible Husky A, C, and D members. Reducing alcohol consumption and wearing lip balm or sunscreen can reduce oral cancer risk. Finally, getting screened for oral cancer or visiting a dentist regularly – every 6 months- can allow providers to detect oral cancer early.
One of CHC’s dental hygienists, Beata Milewska, screened patients behind a privacy screen in the Meriden waiting room area. Oral cancer exams are very simple, can be performed anywhere and only take about 5 minutes. In an oral exam, a dental professional will gently check the tissue on the inside of the mouth and palpate the glands on the neck. Beata screened 23 patients for oral cancer during the event! Each patient was also screened to see if they needed assistance with health insurance enrollment. Overall, our patients were very excited for a dental professional to check their mouth and educate them about the importance of oral health.
CHC patients can get comprehensive dental services at several of our health centers across the state. CHC also has a mobile dental program that travels across the state setting up a mobile dental office at locations from schools to churches to community events.