Faculty Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery/Hospital Dentistry Patient Care Patients

Faculty members featured in compelling story about treating a pregnant women’s oral cancer2 min read

October 9, 2020

Faculty members featured in compelling story about treating a pregnant women’s oral cancer2 min read

Ann Arbor, Mich., Oct. 9, 2020 – Two faculty members from the School of Dentistry’s Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery are featured in a story and video produced by Michigan Medicine about a particularly difficult case involving a pregnant woman who needed treatment for a cancerous spot on her tongue.

Drs. Brent Ward and Sean Edwards of the dental school teamed with Dr. Deborah Berman of the hospital’s Maternal and Fetal Medicine department in developing a complex plan that would treat the cancer and save the lives of both mother and baby. The squamous cell carcinoma was confirmed after the woman told her dentist about a sore sport on her tongue and the dentist recommended that it be biopsied.

Similar cases in medical literature involving pregnant patients with cancer often offer only two options – terminate the pregnancy or delay treatment of the mother’s cancer, which was not a good option since squamous cell carcinoma is an aggressive cancer. Ward conferred with colleagues and they developed a third option.

Ward and Edwards worked together during an eight-hour surgery designed to be as efficient and short as possible since the baby would also be affected by anesthesia. Ward removed the part of the patient’s tongue where the cancerous bump was located. Then Edwards reconstructed it using a flap of skin from her forearm. Once the woman recovered from the surgery, she began a regimen of chemotherapy and radiation with special considerations implemented to protect and monitor the baby and its growth.

Six years after the surgery, the patient and her child are healthy and a testament to the high level of collaborative care available in the U-M health system.

The complete story can be found on the Michigan Medicine website here.


The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care and community service.  General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan.  Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies.  Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide.  For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at: www.dent.umich.edu.  Contact: Lynn Monson, associate director of communications, at dentistry.communications@umich.edu, or (734) 615-1971.