My father was diagnosed with brain cancer when I was 19 years old. We, as a family, all anticipated him feeling drained and queasy. However, the severity of his oral side effects caught us off guard. I wasn't a dental hygienist, nor was I even a dental hygiene student at the time. Had I known then what I know now, I would have asked our family dentist for guidance, but we relied on the medical staff that was taking care of him. The treatment was circular, the oral problems would not be fixed, and it was assumed that "this just happens." In this circumstance, I felt helpless. Even if it isn't a close family member, I believe that many of us are familiar with this emotion. We are compelled to assist when a patient informs us that they will soon begin receiving cancer treatment. Oral cancer is a topic that receives a lot of attention in dentistry for obvious reasons. However, regardless of where the cancer is located, the oral side effects of radiation and general chemotherapy have significant oral consequences. As dental professionals, we can offer assistance in this circumstance, which can occasionally feel hopeless. The negative effects of cancer treatment on the oral cavity might be prevented or lessened with our knowledge and resources. We at OraCare are establishing the We Can Help awareness campaign for dental professionals (www.WeCanHelpCC.org) in memory of my father and all cancer patients. Our intention is for dentists to understand that they can HELP patients who are undergoing therapy.
A stands for awareness, S for support, S for self-education, I for information, S for side effect prevention, and T for side effect treatment. ASSIST is a method that patients should adhere to while obtaining treatment. Let's take a closer look at each of these actions.
Awareness (A)- Being aware that you can help is the first step in providing care for cancer patients. It's important to realize that, in addition to oral cancer, we can help with ANY kind of cancer. Many dental practitioners are unaware of the support we may provide to patients receiving cancer therapy in other sections of the body, despite the fact that the majority of them are familiar with malignancies that affect the neck and higher. Patients may experience oral side effects from their medication, including excessive dry mouth, fungal infections, burning tongue, and mouth sores.
Support (S)- It's important to support someone who is going through a difficult time. As one of the most difficult experiences a person can go through, supporting someone with cancer may help a person feel cherished, cared for, and powerful. They may feel more secure, encouraged, and motivated as a result, which could improve their mental and emotional well-being and help them overcome their challenges during this tough time.
Self Education (S)- As dental professionals, we have the best expertise regarding the oral cavity and any problems. To ensure that your patients are informed about what to expect and how to handle it if it does, it's critical to educate yourself and get an understanding of the normal side effects of cancer treatment.
Information (I)- It is our responsibility as dental practitioners to advise our patients about possible future situations and how to safeguard their mouths. Patients can make informed, proactive decisions about their care by being aware of any potential side effects. This will help them prepare for what to expect during and after treatment.
Side Effect Prevention (S)- Create a strategy for your patients. It's possible that you won't even be starting therapy when you see them in the chair. Giving them information on what might happen at this time is a terrific idea. Otherwise, they'll probably go to the medical staff, who are less able to come up with creative treatments for the side effects, if and when they have mouth problems. As a dental professional, you are exposed to a wide range of goods and services that might be able to lessen these conditions. It may be possible to avoid adverse effects or future problems by letting them know the strategy in advance.
Treatment of Side Effects (T)- Unfortunately, we are aware of the potential for severe side effects, and prevention is the best course of action while treating cancer. Giving patients the resources they require before the commencement of treatment enables patients to respond as soon as any early symptoms or indicators appear. By doing this, misery and pointless hardships may be avoided.
My father unfortunately lost his battle to cancer. As a hygienist, I can't help but sit here and consider whether we could have enhanced his quality of life by contacting our dentist. I want every dentist to understand that they can help. Unfortunately, oncologists and other medical professionals are unaware of these problems or how to handle oral adverse effects that may develop while receiving treatment. We must intervene at this point and offer support. Although your patient's oral health may not be top of mind at the time of treatment, we can inform and prepare them for what may come so they will know what to do. We can actually alter how people react to treatment, so we don't have to stand by helplessly.
To say I’m proud to work for OraCare is an understatement. Patients can receive a complimentary set of the rinse as part of our OraCare Cares program, which supports them as they undergo treatment. Many of the usual adverse effects of cancer therapy, such as dry mouth, mouth ulcers, fungus infections, etc., are lessened by using OraCare rinse. Over 3,000 patients have received assistance! Due to this profound effect, we believe it is our responsibility to educate dental professionals on how they might benefit patients undergoing cancer treatment. Visit the website at www.WeCanHelpCC.org to educate your group. We can significantly improve these patients' lives by working together. We can help.
Kristin Goodfellow RDH
Kristin is Chief Clinical Officer of OraCare, a practicing Registered Dental Hygienist