A study revealed a shocking statistic that cigarettes claim the lives of 40,000 Thai people each year, with heavy smokers facing 3.16 times higher risk from oral cancer than nonsmokers. ThaiHealth is supporting the Thai Dentists’ Network in conducting screening of oral cancer among high – risk groups. Early detection of oral cancer will lead to greater chances of successful treatment and less health expenditure. Males ages 40 years and older who smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, or chew betel nuts have the highest risk of developing oral cancer. Methods to detect oral cancer are being provided to the public, and members of the public are advised to meet their dentist at least once a year.
On May 23, at the Siam City Hotel, Dr. Krissada Raungarreerat, the CEO of Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth), gave a press conference on “The Oral Cancer Situation in Thailand” on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day. He said that there are currently 40,000 fatalities from smoking in Thailand each year, and that cigarettes are one of the foremost burdens of disease. Smoking is a risk factor for many other diseases, such as lung cancer, emphysema, oral cancer, etc. It contributes to considerable economic losses and health expenditure. The International Health Policy Program Thailand conducted a study on the association between the risk of oral cancer and smoking. The study found that smokers face 3.16 times higher risk from oral cancer than nonsmokers. ThaiHealth is therefore supporting the Thai Dentists’ Network in promoting screening and early detection of oral cancer, in order to ensure prompt treatment before the disease becomes severe in patients.
Lieutenant General Pisarn Thepsitha, the Chairperson of the Dental Association of Thailand Under Royal Patronage, in his capacity as the manager of the Strategic Project by the Dental Profession to Control Tobacco Consumption, said that the Strategic Project is working with the support of ThaiHealth to have public sector dental service providers organise screening of the onset of lesions or oral cancer among high – risk groups. Advice will also be provided for smokers to quit smoking. Patients with a universal health card, or gold card, will receive free services in order to allow treatment at the onset of disease. There are currently 14 provinces providing screening of oral cancer, including Phitsanulok Province, Phrae Province, Suphanburi Province, etc. Most recently, Samut Prakan Province has joined the program. It is hoped that the western region of Thailand will be the first region in which screening of oral cancer is provided in every province by 2012.
The Director of the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Theerawut Kuhaprema, said that oral cancer is a type of cancer that can be detected during its early phase and can be completely cured if treated early. Early detection and treatment of oral cancer will help to reduce health expenditure considerably. The survival rate of patients with oral cancer during the first five years is only 30%. In contrast, the survival rate of patients with breast cancer or cervical cancer during the first five years is at about 60%. These forms of cancer can all be detected at their onset. The reason that the survival rate for oral cancer is lower than for other forms of cancer is because oral cancer patients lack knowledge to observe their own condition, therefore members of the public should meet with their dentist at least once a year.
Associate Professor Dr. Woranut Wirapradit, from the Department of Oral Pathology, Faculty of Dentistry, Mahidol University, is the lead researcher of a study on the Costs of Care for Oral Cancer in Thailand. Dr. Woranut said that the research was conducted to support smokers to quit smoking. The study took place at hospitals under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Health, including Ratchawithi Hospital, Ramathibodi Hospital, Chon Buri Hospital, Hat Yai Hospital in Songkhla Province, and Srinagarind Hospital in Khon Kaen Province. The research found that, out of 858 oral cancer patients surveyed, 91% of patients are 40 years of age or older and 59.73% of patients are 60 years of age or older. Therefore people who are 40 years of age or older should be screened for oral cancer. Meanwhile, the average per capita cost of treatment is 80,454 Baht, accounting for 64.1% of the average per capita annual income in Thailand. Half of surveyed patients are entering the fourth stage of oral cancer, and have 100,883 Baht in average per capita cost of treatment. The highest cost of treatment is at 131,124.27 Baht. Therefore, early detection of oral cancer will have positive impacts in terms of helping reduce health expenditure.
The Deputy Director General of the Department of Health, Dr. Theerapol Topanthanon, said that the early symptoms of oral cancer include: chronic wounds in the mouth that do not heal within 2 weeks; white lesions or reddish – white lesions on membranes in the mouth, on the tongue, on the lips, or in other locations in the oral cavity; as well as hard spots that do not cause pain on the sides of the tongue or under the tongue, behind the molar tooth, or on the roof of the palate.
People who face the highest risk of oral cancer include persons 40 years of age and older. The disease is often found in males more than females. Risk factors include smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, lack of oral hygiene, the chewing of betel nuts, working outdoor frequently, coming from a family that has a history of cancer in the upper gastrointestinal tract, as well as prior infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV).