Baseball fans may recall that former Padres’ ball player and Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn succumbed to oral cancer earlier this year. Oral cancer has some of the worse statistics of all cancers, taking the life of an American every hour. It also has one of the worst survival rates.
Gwynn’s battle with oral cancer began in 2010 after it was discovered in his salivary glands. Once diagnosed, Mr. Gwynne attributed the disease to years of using smokeless tobacco, which is a common habit among Major League baseball players. Even after an intense response of chemotherapy and radiation, its progression was beyond treatment.
Apparently, smokeless tobacco had become so prevalent that a survey was conducted to determine how rampant its use was in baseball. The survey found that about a third of Major League rookies were regular users of chewing and snuff. It also showed that nearly 30% of all players (at all levels) used smokeless tobacco. Equally as disturbing were findings that once the habit was formed, very few kicked the habit later.
This growing trend was sending a message to young fans, according to the MLB, prompting them to set rules regarding the use of these products. Even so, much work remains as indicated in a 2012 study. These findings showed that nearly 11% of high school males were smokeless tobacco users.
Users typically tuck chewing tobacco or snuff in the cheek and spit out juices that form when mixed with saliva. Snuff can also be snorted into the nostrils. Although health risks of smoking cigarettes are more familiar to the general public, not so much so with smokeless products. Yet, smokeless products contain 28 carcinogens and are a known cause of oral cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
Like the addictive source in cigarettes, nicotine is a harmful presence in all tobacco products, including smokeless. Nicotine is also physically and emotionally addictive. Many don’t realize just how addictive the products are until they try to quit. Symptoms are similar to those experienced when one tries to quit smoking, including headaches, weight gain, depression, irritability and dizziness.
In addition to giving up the use of all tobacco products, it is important that adults and teens be aware of the warning signs of oral cancer. These include a spot or sore in the mouth, tongue or lips that does not heal within two weeks. Other signs may include a persistent sore throat, hoarseness, change in the voice and difficulty swallowing. If any of these symptoms arise, they should be checked immediately. With early treatment, oral cancer can be survived.
We also encourage all team coaches to be aware of the deadly statistics when it comes to oral cancer and watch for signs of smokeless tobacco use among players. You may be helping to save a growing smile from disfiguration or even death.
For more information, call 910-254-4555 or schedule an appointment promptly if you’ve noticed any symptoms. In our office, we use advanced detection for oral cancer, which is painless and takes just minutes. ViziLite can reveal suspicious areas long before visual detection.