Michael Douglas and Early Cancer Screening
Actor Michael Douglas, himself a survivor of throat cancer, is now the face of a public awareness campaign designed to promote early screening for the illness. In his campaign, Douglas and the Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF) emphasize that the sexually transmitted Human Papilloma Virus, not smoking, is responsible for the fast growing number of oral-cancer cases in the United States.
Actress Blythe Danner is also taking part in the campaign, designed by the Oral Cancer Foundation. Danner lost her husband to oral cancer.
The term “oral cancer” is an overall term encompassing cancer of the mouth, tongue, throat and tonsils. According to the OCF, the five year survival rate when oral cancers are caught early is 80 percent. But when oral cancers are found at a late stage, the survival rate is 30 percent. The OCF emphasized that the illness is not rare; the death rate in the U.S. is one person per hour.
A strain of HPV known has HPV 16 has recently been linked to oral cancer. The strain is responsible for cervical-cancer cases, and with oral cancers, it may be caused by oral sex. But further research is needed to establish that definitively.
Major risk factors for oral cancer are the use of alcohol and tobacco. Douglas, who was diagnosed in 2010 with Stage IV cancer, has said he smoked and drank for many years. Danner’s husband, Bruce Paltrow, was a smoker.
Both Douglas and Paltrow emphasized the need for early screening. A dentist or M.D. can give the screening, which involves a visual examination of the tongue and throat to look for any abnormalities.