I went for a routine dental checkup - then was diagnosed with mouth cancer and ... trends now
A model has shared her ordeal after a routine dentist appointment sparked her deadly cancer battle.
Elizabeth Brown Lax, now 45 and from Henderson, Nevada, said her dentist was 'checking my tongue as usual and felt a lump.'
She was diagnosed with stage one oral squamous cell carcinoma which is normally harmless and had a small piece of her tongue cut out.
But a year later when 'unbearable' pain erupted in her ear, doctors said the cancer had returned and was now stage three — meaning it had spread to her lymph nodes.
She was sent for a 12-hour procedure where doctors cut out half her tongue and part of her jaw before rebuilding them using tissue and bone from her leg — an operation which caused her face to swell.
Elizabeth Brown Lax, now 45 and from Nevada, was diagnosed with mouth cancer after doctors spotted a lump on her tongue. She is pictured above after surgery
The cancer was initially stage one and removed with minor surgery. But a year later it had returned and was stage three, meaning it had spread to lymph nodes near the tongue. Ms Lax had half her tongue and parts of her jaw removed in order to treat the cancer. She is pictured after surgery with the scar across her face
Ms Lax has now recovered and the cancer has not returned, and she has returned to working in the media in production.
The singer and on-camera host, also known as Elly, also has lichen planus, a condition where the immune system attacks the skin causing purplish, flat-topped and itchy bumps or lesions to appear.
The condition is uncommon, affecting about one to two percent of Americans who are typically between 30 and 60 years old.
But patients who have it are sent for regular oral check-ups to monitor lesions in their mouth and for any cancers which may emerge.
Lichen planus may raise the risk of mouth cancer in long-term cases because of the persistent inflammation.
Oral squamous cell carcinoma is diagnosed in about 54,000 adults every year — and is more than twice as likely to occur in men compared to women.
About 70 percent of those diagnosed with the cancer live for more than five years after their diagnosis, according to the American Cancer Society.
Five-year survival rates are as high as 84 percent for those who have the cancer diagnosed in the early stages, but they drop to 41 percent when the cancer is not detected until it has spread to other parts of the body.
Describing when she was diagnosed in 2017 at the age of 39, Ms Lax said: 'My oral surgeon was checking my tongue as usual and felt a lump.'
'He actually said: "I don’t like the look of that" – which is not exactly what you want to hear from your oral surgeon, but my lichen planus had been getting worse for years.
'He took a biopsy and it came back positive for cancer; squamous cell carcinoma.'
Ms Lax didn't look in the mirror for a few days after surgery, she said, but when she did she described the lump as looking like a volleyball
She was also given a tracheostomy, where a hole is opened in her neck (pictured) to allow her to eat and breathe through this until her mouth had healed
Ma Lax is pictured above following the surgery. The scar is visible through her lip and down to her chin
She added: 'No one can fully prepare you for being