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The dental team is in a position to make a difference to those affected by cancer. Prehabilitation is comprehensive, anticipatory care for oral issues surrounding cancer before debilitating side effects of the disease or treatment develop.
The dental team is in a position to make a difference to those affected by cancer. As part of a collaborative care team you can have a positive impact for this community.
Prehabilitation is comprehensive, anticipatory care for oral issues surrounding cancer before debilitating side effects of the disease or treatment develop.1,2
Education and communication
Knowing what to expect, having materials on hand for the issues that may arise or preventing their occurrence altogether, quality of life can be improved. Educate your patients on how important prehabilitation can be. Understanding can help their trek down this road be less frightening.
Related reading: The best in oral cancer and caries detection
An anticipatory treatment plan3
If custom trays might be needed, why not fabricate them now, before issues arise? Infection in the mouth can be counterproductive to cancer treatments. Some patients will become significantly immunosuppressed due to these therapies.
Frequent recare visits and OHI
Recare visits and OHI reduce the likelihood of oral infection from normal or abnormal flora, help minimize trauma-induced mucosal tissue injury, and promote comfort. Nutritional counseling should be offered.
One overlooked aspect of your patient with cancer is emotional well-being and concern for them as a person, not just treatment of their tumor or disease.4 They will suffer from fatigue, depression, a distorted self-image and a form of PTSD from resulting surgeries, treatments and invasive procedures. Caregivers find that they are asked, “How is Mary doing?” and no one inquires as to how they are coping with the stress or level of fatigue.
Related reading: What you need to know about HPV, oral cancer and your dental patients
There is not one single product on the market today that can solve all the oral issues a cancer patient faces, but there are many that can be carried in your arsenal benefiting the patient. What works well for one, does not necessarily work well for another. Needs change during the course of treatment. Many existing therapies are unpalatable or difficult to use making compliance an obstacle. Availability and expense factor into it as well. Read labels carefully for recommended usage and ingredients.
Dental providers can become an integral part of an oncology care team, making this undesirable journey more comfortable. Prehabilitation in oral care is fundamental.
1J. A. Ship, J. A. Mccutcheon, S. Spivakovsky And A. R. Kerr. 22 Feb 2007 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2842.2006.01718.x Journal of Oral Rehabilitation Volume 34, Issue 10, pages 724–732, October 2007.
2Richard Weitzman, Nicholas Sauter, Erik Fink Eriksen, et al. Volume 62, Issue 2, May 2007, Pages 148–152. “Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology”.