Mike ‘Sugar Bear’ Thompson goes to see a specialist for possible gum cancer

Reality TV personality Mike “Sugar Bear” Thompson, June’s ex-fiancé Edith “Mama June” Shannon, is reportedly seeing a specialist for a possible diagnosis of gum cancer (a type of head and neck cancer).

According to TMZdentist based in Los Angeles, California Dr. Tania Farshi found signs of gum cancer in Sugar Bear’s mouth last week during a cosmetic appointment for a set of new teeth.

Dr. Farshi reportedly spotted signs of gum cancer in the lower part of Sugar Bear’s mouth. The 50-year-old reality star is said to have chewed tobacco for about 12 years. The habit ended up “rotting its teeth”.

This prompted Sugar Bear, the father of 16-year-old Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson, and Georgia native McIntyre, Ga., to seek out a “complete makeover,” which included dental work, a hair transplant, Botox, fillers, liposuction, a tummy tuck, a new haircut and a new shave.

The makeover idea was also reportedly sparked by his recent divorce from Jennifer Thompson (née Lamb). The couple tied the knot in 2017, a few years after Mama June, now 42, ended her 16-month engagement to Sugar Bear in 2014 due to reports he was cheating.

Before his possible cancer scare, Sugar Bear seemed excited about his impending makeover! In an Instagram post shared over the weekend, he wrote ‘stay tuned’ and tagged cosmetic surgeon Dr. Babak Moein. But the news that he might have gum cancer would have turned Sugar Bear’s world upside down.

The family shot to fame after Mama June and Honey Boo Boo, then 5-year-old Said, appeared on the popular TLC show, Toddlers and tiarasin 2011. Their fame sparked a spin-off show, Here comes honey Boo Boo, which premiered on TLC in August 2012. The show ran for four seasons, but was abruptly canceled during filming for the fifth season. Mama June and Sugar Bear also appeared on the WeTV show Marriage Bootcamp: Reality Stars before calling off their engagement in 2014.

Understanding head and neck cancers

Gum cancer is a type of head and neck cancer. This begins when cells in the upper or lower gums grow out of control and form lesions or tumors. In Sugar Bear’s case, the discovery was made on his lower gums.

It’s much more common to know someone with head or neck cancer like gum cancer these days than it was decades ago. It is because of the close link between head and neck cancers and human papillomavirus, or HPV, which is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. It’s unclear exactly what could have caused Sugar Bear’s suspected gum cancer, however, HPV can cause over 90% of head and neck cancers.

HPV and cancer risk: the basics

“From the 1980s to the 2010s, the rate of HPV-related head and neck cancers increased by 300%,” Dr. Ted Teknoshead and neck cancer specialist and president and chief scientific officer of University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center in Cleveland, Ohio, told SurvivorNet in a previous interview.

The vast majority of humans in the United States — both men and women — will eventually become infected with HPV, according to Dr Allen Hohead and neck surgeon at Cedars-Sinai.

“The important thing to know about HPV is that there are many different strains, and only a few of them tend to be more carcinogenic,” he said. “Probably less than 1% of the population that is infected has the carcinogenic virus that their immune system fails to clear, and within 15 to 20 years it develops from viral infection to tumor and cancer.”

It’s not known if HPV alone is enough to trigger the changes in your cells that lead to oral cancers like gum cancer, or if it happens in combination with other risk factors like smoking. (In Sugar Bear’s case, he chewed tobacco for years.) Of course, some people who develop a form of oral cancer have no known risk factors for the disease. Genetics may also play a role in this cancer.

Why the HPV vaccine is so important in preventing cancer

Head and neck cancers are unique in that they are generally preventable with the HPV vaccine. And that’s why eligible people should get the HPV vaccine, say experts at SurvivorNet.

The vaccine is usually given to children before they are sexually active because HPV is transmitted through sexual contact.

And unlike some harmful misinformation circulating online, the HPV vaccine is completely safe.

There are virtually no side effects with this vaccine, Dr Jonathan Berekdirector of the Women’s Cancer Center at Stanford Medical Center, previously told SurvivorNet.

It’s “incredibly safe,” he added.

Learn more about SurvivorNet’s rigorous medical review process.

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