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    Oral cancer from a survivor’s perspective [VIDEO]

    Joana Breckner didn’t exhibit any of the risk factors, but still found herself in a years-long struggle to beat the disease.

    As Oral Cancer Awareness Month comes to a close, DPR Products Editor Michael Quirk reached out to Joana Breckner, an oral cancer survivor, to learn more about this disease from the patient’s perspective.

    A Westlake Village, Cali. resident and mother of two, Joana was first diagnosed in 2000 after her dentist noticed white spots on her tongue during a routine cleaning. After being referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist who removed the benign leukoplakia patch, Joana’s cancer returned in 2007, after which a small cancerous tumor was removed from her tongue. In 2011, Joana’s cancer returned again more aggressively than ever, and required her to undergo a 10-hour surgery at UCLA that removed half of her tongue.

    Joana was pleased to inform us that, after years of monitoring, surgery and radiation treatment, her doctor informed her just last week that she is finally cancer free.

    But not everyone who is diagnosed is as lucky as Joana. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, 80 to 90% of oral cancer patients survive if the cancer is found early, but the majority of these cancers are diagnosed late, accounting for a mortality rate of 43% within five years of their initial diagnosis.

    For more information about oral cancer, head to the Oral Cancer Foundation’s website at www.oralcancerfoundation.org.