According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in every 2 women and 1 in 3 men in the US will develop cancer within their lifetime. (1) In 2022 alone, there will be an estimated 1.9 million new cancer cases diagnosed in the US. (2) There are many types of cancer therapies and complementary medications used in the treatment process that can affect a patient’s mouth. As a dental health provider, do you feel prepared to help your patients or a loved one who may face a cancer diagnosis?
As I was starting my career in dentistry (about 30 years ago), witnessing my own mother suffer from very painful dry mouth and mouth sores from chemotherapy thrust me into a quest for answers. She was already suffering in so many other ways from her treatments with a radical mastectomy, extreme exhaustion, hair loss, and nausea, it felt unacceptable that her oncology team was unable to provide her with more guidance or relief. It felt even more frustrating to realize that my new dental connections and dental hygiene instructors couldn’t provide me with answers. After all, it’s the mouth!
In all fairness, information about oral side effects of cancer therapies was very hard to come by, even for someone who was diligently looking for it. Before the luxury of search engines, resources were almost nonexistent, and even after an endless amount of information became available at our fingertips, data and studies were often restricted to only those in academia or hospital settings. How was the average dental healthcare provider supposed to confidently serve our patients without this information? Why were so many people helplessly suffering from oral health issues more than they needed to, not only during the treatment process but also into survivorship? Why couldn’t medical and dental providers join forces to help our patients experience better treatment outcomes and quality of life after a cancer diagnosis? Shouldn’t we be working together to achieve optimal care? Cancer patients deserved more from us!
While more experiences with and loss from cancer continued to touch my family, I knew we were not unique. People all over the world were having similar experiences. I saw it over and over with patients at the dental offices where I worked. As my quest for information continued, I could not help but wonder why someone had not created an easier resource where cancer patients and healthcare providers could access the tools they needed. I started asking myself, Why isn’t someone doing something about this?” One day, a voice entered my head to ask, “Why don’t YOU do something about it?” And, so I did!
Side Effect Support (https://sideeffectsupport.com/) was created as the resource that I wished to find for so many years. It was important to me that it would serve as a hub of information where patients could take more control over their own health. A place where family caregivers could feel empowered to help their loved ones and medical and dental professionals could bridge the gap in communication to provide more collaborative care. It would need to take the complicated, and sometimes, intimidating information and simplify it to be easily put into practice.
It was vital that the education provided through Side Effect Support would not end with written articles but expand into presentations for patient support groups and for healthcare professionals (including PACE-approved CE for dental providers). Understanding the risks and how we can be proactive rather than reactive with side effect management is at the core of our mission.
I knew Side Effect Support needed to provide home delivery of affordable over-the-counter oral care products. Simply providing recommendations would not be enough as convenience and ease of use were key. While it is so important for patients to avoid certain ingredients, like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, alcohol, and whitening agents, it is unrealistic to expect someone who is ill to travel from store to store looking for certain brands or tools.
Partnering with other companies has been a blessing to provide expanded services. For example, there can be times during cancer treatments when patients will not be able to see their dentist due to low blood counts and infection risks. Knowing that many patients do not have a “dental home” or their dental office may not provide virtual visits, offering teledentistry services through a partnership with The TeleDentists improves access to care and avoid emergency situations. (https://sideeffectsupport.com/pages/teledentists-saves-you-time-money).
I invite you to utilize the information, products, and services at Side Effect Support (https://sideeffectsupport.com/) for your practice, your patients, and your loved ones. Sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of the homepage and access the free “Cancer Treatments & Oral Health” brochures for adults and children under RESOURCES. Together, let’s make a difference!