Oral Cancer: Recognizing the Signs

 School of Dental Medicine  Comments Off on Oral Cancer: Recognizing the Signs
Jun 292012

Michael Douglas has won dozens of awards throughout his acting career, including the Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 2009 and the Golden Eye for Lifetime Achievement at the Zurich Film Festival in 2010.  No doubt those award announcements were nothing compared to the announcement from his doctor that he was tumor free after an intense battle with throat cancer.  The Oscar winning star announced his throat cancer diagnosis in August, 2010, and endured an extensive 8 week bout of chemotherapy and radiation.  In January, 2011, the tumor could not be detected by physical examinations, CTs, MRIs or PET scans.  While he is not completely out of the danger zone, Mr. Douglas had a complete response to treatment and is likely on the road to a full recovery.

The occurrences of oral cancer have greatly increased over the last 20 years.  Risk factors for oral and oro-pharyngeal cancer include alcohol and tobacco use, sun exposure (lips), marijuana use and HPV infection.  The best way to avoid oral cancer?  Avoid the risk factors that can lead to oral cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute’s website, www.cancer.gov, the leading cause of oral cancer is tobacco use in any form.  The more tobacco used, the greater the risk of developing cancer.  People who use tobacco and drink alcohol are even more likely to develop oral cancer than someone who just uses alcohol or tobacco.

However, a person who currently smokes cigarettes can lower their chances of oral cancer simply by quitting smoking.  Clinical trials have shown that within 5 years of stopping tobacco use, a person’s chance of developing oral cancer drops by 50%.  10 years of being tobacco free lowers a person’s risk of oral cancer to that of a person who has never smoked.

Oral cancer can occur in three different regions:  the lips; the oral cavity including the front of the tongue, the gingiva (gums), the buccal mucosa (lining of the cheeks), the floor of the mouth, the palate and the area behind the wisdom teeth; the oropharynx which includes the middle part of the throat behind the mouth, the back one-third of the tongue, the soft palate (roof of the mouth), the throat and the tonsils.

A dentist, based on findings during an oral exam, usually makes a diagnosis of oral cancer.  The exam typically includes a visual exam of the whole oral cavity as well as manually feeling for abnormalities such as swollen areas or hardened masses.  Symptoms to watch for between dental visits include:

  • sores or lesions in the mouth that don’t heal
  • a sore throat or the feeling that something is caught in the throat
  • difficulty swallowing, chewing or moving the jaw or tongue
  • numbness of the tongue or other areas of the mouth
  • chronic hoarseness

If you experience these symptoms, contact your dentist immediately.


D. Gregory Chadwick, DDS, MS
Interim Dean, ECU School of Dental Medicine

Jun 282012

After months of speculation, the U.S. Supreme Court has finally weighed in on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – the 2010 legislation more widely known as health care reform.

The Court’s opinion – to uphold the law – certainly affects all Americans.  Although personal opinions differ greatly on this decision, it’s clear our nation needs to address its health care challenges. ECU has recognized for some time the need to change the way we all think about health care in our region. We believe in transforming the health care landscape by focusing on the “Triple Aim.” This approach includes three essential components: quality improvement, cost reduction and increased access to care.

We know that our growing and aging population, the prevalence of chronic diseases and conditions like diabetes, heart disease and obesity, as well as disparate access to quality care makes caring for patients more challenging than ever. And, because ECU’s mission includes improving health care in eastern North Carolina, as well as educating future primary care health professionals in the region and state, we are already undertaking a number of exciting, transformational projects.

Health provider collaboration will be essential in the future.  In our simulation labs, students, physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other health professionals collaboratively learn and train to provide coordinated, effective and high-quality care as teams. Projects in Telemedicine connect patients in underserved areas to specialists and diagnostic tools – providing access to the care often reserved for urban medical centers. And, we continue to convene the brightest minds in our region and state to help tackle the issues we face in delivering quality care, containing costs and increasing access to health care.

We see this journey as just beginning, and as an opportunity rather than only a challenge. We look forward to continuing our work and helping to shape a health care climate that improves the health of our state.

–Dr. Phyllis N. Horns
Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences

Old-Fashioned Home Remedies Found at Laupus Library

 Laupus Library  Comments Off on Old-Fashioned Home Remedies Found at Laupus Library
Jun 262012

It’s a common scene. You’re sick, but you don’t want to go to the doctor yet. So you head online to search your symptoms. Ever imagine what we did before we could Google, Bing, WebMD or Yahoo! our health questions?

In today’s world, the answer to virtually any medical question is at our fingertips thanks to an endless and always-available supply of online health and wellness websites.

But long before modern medicine collaborated with the internet – in fact, before either of those concepts even existed – doctors and patients alike relied on their almanac for medical tips. Chock full of home remedies and holistic elixirs, almanacs were, and still remain, a comprehensive guide for treating head-to-toe symptoms. They’re a fixture in American culture, and here at ECU, the very first almanacs are part of our heritage – and found in our library.

The Digital Collections from Laupus Library is a digital preservation of historic artifacts available for public viewing on the web http://digital.lib.ecu.edu/collection/historyofmedicine.aspx.  One of the library’s signature collections is an assortment of 360 patent medicine trade cards, used in the early 1800s to advertise health and medical products.  Each card was uniquely designed and marketed to sell treatments for many different ailments, from insomnia and nervousness to throat and lung diseases. To entice buyers, the trade cards would often tout exotic or obscure ingredients as part of the formula – even if the actual treatment called for very practical ingredients.

By 1840, the demand for patent medicine cards created the need for a more comprehensive publication. Thus, the first American almanacs were born.

To this day, the cards are recognizable by their eccentric illustrations and label names. Visit the library’s Digital Collections and see these pieces of history today – and you might even find a cure for what ails you.

For more information on patent medicine trade cards, visit: http://www.hagley.org/library/exhibits/patentmed/history/advertisingbranding.html.

–Dr. Dorothy A. Spencer, Laupus Library


New recruitment strategy brings best and brightest to ECU Health Sciences

 Brody School of Medicine  Comments Off on New recruitment strategy brings best and brightest to ECU Health Sciences
Jun 222012

In 2008, the Vice Chairs of Diversity Initiatives (VCDI) initiated a new strategy designed to recruit the best students to Brody, while preparing them to compete for positions in graduate and clinical programs. This offering, called the Summer Biomedical Research Program (SBRP), helps students hone research skills in Brody or Vidant laboratories.

For eight weeks in the summer, enrolled students address critical research questions using cutting-edge techniques. At the conclusion, students present their findings during a poster session. Brody faculty also provides career development activities including mock graduate/medical school interviews, a 1-day biostatistical analysis course and one-on-one career counseling.

Recruiting top-notch students to graduate education with the Brody School of Medicine is about more than meeting graduate school enrollment numbers. For us, it’s also about preparing the next generation of scientists and physicians to meet North Carolina’s unique health care needs, particularly in rural and underserved areas.

Now in our fourth year, we are pleased to report positive progress:
• Fifty-three percent of the SBRP students continued to conduct laboratory research after the program ended.
• Fifty-five percent of the students who completed their Bachelor of Science degree pursued graduate education in health sciences fields, including medicine, biology, physical therapy, pharmacy and pharmacology.
• Sixty-two percent of the SBRP students who received Bachelor of Science degrees in 2012 applied to or were accepted to graduate/medical programs at ECU or the Brody School of Medicine.

The SBRP accepts students from all backgrounds and universities with a focus on providing opportunities for student groups typically underrepresented in the sciences.

Positions in the SBRP have been funded by many sources including the Brody School of Medicine, Johnson C. Smith University, the Brody Women Faculty Committee, the Center for Health Disparities Research, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences and the membership of the VCDI. In addition, Brody faculty, students and staff have contributed greatly to the program through their support of various fundraising events.

What a great start for such an important program!

Rukiyah Van Dross, Ph.D.
Vice Chairs of Diversity Initiatives, Chairperson
Assistant Professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology

Navigating life’s challenges

 College of Allied Health Sciences  Comments Off on Navigating life’s challenges
Jun 192012

Let’s face it, in life, stuff happens.  It can be money problems, relationship issues with family members, being laid off from your job, an injury—whatever it is, when it happens, it’s bound to bring some challenges, problems and setbacks. 

Typically, better days are right around the corner, but sometimes things can feel overwhelming.  Intense situations can set the stage for depression, anxiety, or stress which can also lead to health problems. The World Health Organization reports by the year 2020, depression will be the 2nd most common health problem in the world.

Studies also show that many people with negative emotions will suffer in silence, perhaps because they are embarrassed to admit they need help.  Ironically, research suggests it came make matters worse. Denying these feelings will not make them go away.

Here’s the good news, however.  With help, it is possible to learn how to sail through difficult times. 

The Department of Addictions and Rehabilitation Studies has opened the Navigate Counseling Clinic, a faculty directed, student operated counseling clinic that provides services to ECU staff and students as well as adults in the Greenville area.  

Services are individualized to help people relieve stress, improve relationships, choose a career, improve interpersonal skills, and/or address use of alcohol or other drugs. Counseling individuals, families, and groups will be through a holistic approach utilizing evidence-based and innovative interventions on an outpatient basis.

Our mission is simple:  We help people navigate life’s challenges.

Everyone deserves the life they want.

Contact:  Navigate@ecu.edu

–Dr. Paul Toriello, Associate Professor
Department of Addictions and Rehabilitation Studies