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Oral Cancer Genetics: From Diagnosis to Treatment (AGD 730)

Presenter: Natalie Kaweckyj, LDARF, CDA, CDPMA, COA, COMSA, CPFDA, CRFDA, MADAA, BA


Often oral cancer is only discovered when the cancer has metastasized to another location, most likely the lymph nodes of the neck when the patient complains of a stiff neck or swollen glands. Prognosis at this stage of discovery is significantly worse than when it is caught in a localized intra oral area. Besides the metastasis, at these later stages, the primary tumor has had time to attack deep into local structures.


Oral cancer is particularly dangerous because in its early stages it may not be noticed by the patient, as it can frequently prosper without producing pain or symptoms they might readily recognize, and because it has a high risk of producing second, primary tumors. This means that patients, who survive a first encounter with the disease, have up to a 20 times higher risk of developing a second cancer at another point in time. This heightened risk factor can last for 5 to 10 years after the first occurrence. There are several types of oral cancers, but around 90% are squamous cell carcinomas. In 2010, it was estimated that approximately $3.2 billion is spent in the United States each year on treatment of head and neck cancers.


Understanding oral cancer genetics will help dental professionals care for their patients immediately following diagnosis, as well as during and after cancer treatment. This course will teach the dental team to recognize signs and symptoms of cancer, the effects various cancer treatments have on the oral cavity, and the best techniques to ease patient discomfort.


Natalie Kaweckyj currently resides in Minneapolis, MN, where she is a clinician and part of the management team for a nonprofit pediatric dental clinic. She is a Licensed Dental Assistant in Restorative Functions (LDARF), Certified Dental Assistant (CDA), Certified Dental Practice Management Administrator (CDPMA), Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA), Certified Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Assistant (COMSA), Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA), Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant (CRFDA) and a Master of the American Dental Assistants Association. She holds several expanded function certificates, including the administration of nitrous oxide/oxygen analgesia. Ms. Kaweckyj graduated from the American Dental Association-accredited dental assisting program at ConCorde Career Institute and has received a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Psychology from Metropolitan State University. She has worked clinically, administratively and academically. Ms. Kaweckyj is currently serving as on several ADAA Councils after having served on the ADAA Board of Trustees 2002 – 2012, and 2016 – 2019 She served as ADAA President in 2010-2011 and 2017 – 2018. She is the current Business Secretary and legislative chairman for the Minnesota Dental Assistants Association (MnDAA) and a three time past president of MnDAA. She also is a Past President of the Minnesota Educators of Dental Assistants (MEDA). In addition to her association duties, Natalie is very involved with the Minnesota state board of dentistry as well as with state legislature in the expansion of the dental assisting profession. She is a freelance writer and lecturer and is always working on some project. She has authored many other courses and webinars for the ADAA.


Upon completion of this course, the dental professional should be able to:

• List the characteristics associated with oral cancer risk factors
• Summarize the basics of tumor formation
• Understand the basics of cancer genetics and development
• Recognize the signs and symptoms of oral cancer
• Identify areas most common to oral cancer formation
• Describe the various treatment modalities
• Understand how oncogenes and tumor suppressor cells work
• Describe the staging of oral carcinomas
• Explain metastasis
• Recognize the six classes of chemotherapy drugs and their effects on cells
• Distinguish between benign and malignant tumors
• Explain the treatment considerations necessary in treating dental patients with oral complications
• Differentiate between the types of supplemental fluoride according to existing oral restorations
• Explain the home delivery procedures of supplemental fluoride application


The ADAA has an obligation to disseminate knowledge in the field of dentistry. Sponsorship of a continuing education program by the ADAA does not necessarily imply endorsement of a particular philosophy, product or technique.

The ADAA cautions participants taking this course on the hazards of using limited knowledge when integrating new techniques into their practices.

Credits earned upon completion of the course may be used to meet DANB’s Recertification Requirements.


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