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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Your Gums Play a Part

By Jill Hamilton on October 8, 2013 in Healthy Living


10.8 Breast Cancer Awareness Month Your Gums Play a Part

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second most common cancer among American women, coming in only behind skin cancer. A huge percentage of women – 12% – in the US will develop breast cancer in their lifetime! The good news is that occurrence of breast cancer is declining, and there are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors living among us today.

While breast cancer might not seem like it would have an association with your oral health, it turns out it does. Studies have shown that breast cancer and gum disease are closely related. The cycle of connection is certainly a tough one to break – a person suffering from poor oral health is more likely to develop breast cancer while a person who is undergoing treatment for this cancer is vulnerable to dental problems.

Poor oral health is a risk factor for cancer

Apart from the commonly known risk factors that can lead to breast cancer, studies have revealed that there is a link between dental health and breast cancer. One is about 11 times more likely to develop the dreaded disease if dental health is poor. A survey carried out by Journal of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment found that those suffering from periodontal disease of the chronic kind were more likely to develop breast cancer.

Breast cancer treatment can cause dental problems

On the other side of the fence, 1/3 of those being treated for breast cancer are prone to dental health problems. It is highly recommended that one visits his or her dentist before undergoing cancer therapy. Chemotherapy, which is a common treatment to kill cancerous cells, also affects healthy cells. The treatment may cause dryness of the mouth, sore and inflamed tissues, cavities, bleeding gums and decreased saliva flow. Pre-existing conditions are expected to worsen during treatment and all dental problems need to be treated before chemotherapy.

So how do you maintain good oral hygiene and reduce your risk of breast cancer?

Regular brushing and flossing and regular visits to your dentist will help keep your gums healthy. A healthy mouth will have reduced bacteria inside the mouth and help to prevent gum disease. During breast cancer treatment, maintaining good oral hygiene is a must to avoid dental infections since your immune system is reduced. Treatment should be in coordination with your physician, your dentist and an oncologist.

Have you had experience with breast cancer? Leave your tips in the comments!