(KMOV) -- Early detection is the key to beating cancer. Now, dentists have a new test available that can detect the virus responsible for oral cancer long before and cancer develops.
Denise Ciardello took a test at her dentist's office in hopes of avoiding oral cancer like her friend is battling. "If this is something that cold have prevented all of what he is going through now, it would have been awesome," said Ciardello.
The new test checks for the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which has been linked to head and neck cancer.
Oral cancer caused by HPV is on the rise. Dr. Mark Varvares, director of St. Louis University's Cancer Center said, "I see doctors, lawyers, you name it, that come in with this specific type of cancer...it's affecting the entire population and the numbers are increasing and we don't know what the endpoint's going to be."
When found early, oral cancer victims can have up to a 90 percent survival rate. But even with that statistic, it can be painful and disfiguring, and can destroy the ability to taste and enjoy food. Early detection is key.
To test for oral cancer, patients gargle for 30 seconds, and then spit into a tube. The test can detect one of two dangerous forms of HPV well before cancer develops.
Dr. Varvares said warning signs of oral cancer include pain upon swallowing that doesn't go away after a few weeks, blood in the saliva and change in one' voice.
Dentists recommend the test for those with a family history of cancer, oral lesions, or those with multiple sexual partners. The test costs about $120.
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