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Porter dentist offers free oral cancer screenings for firefighters

As a thank you to local first responders, Porter Family Dentistry is offering free oral cancer screenings to firefighters in Montgomery County for the next several weeks.

The screenings will be held on Fridays when the office is usually closed so that firefighters don’t have to wait.

In 2016, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health published a multi-year study of cancer rates in firefighters, and the findings showed that firefighters had a higher number of cancer diagnoses and cancer-related deaths than the general U.S. population. Among the cancers found in the sample of nearly 30,000 firefighters, those most often found were digestive, oral, respiratory, and urinary cancers.

In recent months, firefighters across the country have been traveling to areas, like California, that their help is needed. Dr. Mustafa Yamani of Porter Family Dentistry went to school in California and has fond memories of the nature and beauty of the state.

“It’s such a beautiful place, it’s really sad reading all of the stuff in the news that’s going on there,” Yamani said. “From all around the country they (the firefighters) come together and they provide this service. It’s just amazing what they’re doing and I really appreciate that. I just want to do something for them.”

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The generous act of the firefighters inspired him to give back, and since oral cancer screenings are a service his office already offers he decided to give them to firefighters for free.

While this is the first year that the dental office has offered free screenings, Yamani and his wife Sabrina, who is the office manager, plan on making it an annual thing. The trials of 2020 also helped them decide to give back.

“Things seem to be going from bad to worse, to even worse, and it just doesn’t seem to be stopping for our first responders,” Sabrina said. “They’re just being hit with things one after the other.”

Sabrina started by reaching out to fire departments in the east past of Montgomery County to let them know about the opportunity and the response was immediate and positive. Already, the dental office has screenings set up with local firefighters.

Because firefighters are at a higher risk of developing cancer, many departments take an aggressive approach to screenings and check-ups. Early detection is vital. Such is the approach of the East Montgomery County Fire Department where firefighters undergo a National Fire Protection Agency physicals annually.

“It’s huge to us,” Eran Denzler, captain and PIO with the department, said of being able to get the oral screenings for free. “It’s a great show of appreciation for what we do and the risks that we take. Every day we go and put our lives on the line for the community, and for them to give back and worry about our safety is something we’re not used to but it’s much appreciated.”

The department averages around one to two structure fires a week,

Minimally invasive procedure may free Type 2 diabetics from insulin

A small study suggests that a new procedure that treats part of the intestine just beyond the stomach may allow people with type 2 diabetes to safely stop taking insulin.

The procedure — which resurfaces the duodenum — was combined with a popular kind of diabetes medication called GLP-1 receptor agonists — such as Victoza, Trulicity, Ozempic — and counseling on lifestyle factors, such as nutrition and physical activity.

Six months after treatments began, three-quarters of participants taking insulin no longer needed it. The amount of fat stored in their livers dropped from 8% to less than 5%.

“The duodenum harbors a broad potential for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and this combination treatment could be a game-changing approach in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome,” said lead researcher Dr. Suzanne Meiring, of Amsterdam University Medical Center in the Netherlands.

This preliminary study included 16 patients, all of whom underwent Duodenal Mucosal Resurfacing, or DMR. There was no placebo group or medication-only group for comparison. The study was funded by Fractyl Laboratories, which developed the procedure.

DMR is a minimally invasive procedure that relies on an endoscope — a narrow, flexible tube containing a light and video camera that lets your doctor see inside the body. The endoscope may also carry special tools for treatment. The tube is threaded down the throat into the digestive system.

In DMR, the endoscope is guided to the duodenum, where doctors then resurface, or ablate, its lining. Meiring said it’s not yet clear why the procedure works.

“We think the effects result from a combination of changes that occur when the duodenal mucosa is ablated and rejuvenated,” she said. “We think that changes in hormonal signaling, including the gut hormone GLP-1, bile acid compositions and the microbiome play an important role.”

The 16 participants had type 2 diabetes for an average 11 years. On average, they had been on insulin just under three years. None had taken a GLP-1 receptor agonist before the study.

At the outset, their average A1C levels — an estimate of blood sugar levels over two to three months — were under 8%. After 12 months, the average fell to 6.7%. For most adults, the American Diabetes Association recommends aiming for an A1C below 7%.

After the DMR procedure, patients were given a specific diet for two weeks. After that, they began taking the GLP-1 receptor agonist medication.

Meiring said researchers added the drug because it also targets the duodenum. They hoped it would boost the effects of DMR, “possibly even causing a synergistic effect,” she said.

She said she doesn’t think the positive effects in this study stem from just the drug treatment. Other studies have shown that about 10% of people who start GLP-1 therapy are able to get off insulin, Meiring said. In this study, 75% of those taking insulin were able to stop.

Participants who weren’t insulin-free after 12 months needed only about half the insulin they required before the procedure.