Soap Star In Real-Life Cancer Battle

Colleen Zenk Pinter
CBS/The Early Show
Doctors tell us to wear sunscreen and hats to prevent skin cancer, and get tested for prostate cancer and cervical cancer.

But did you know oral cancer kills more people than any of those others? And it's been occurring in more and more women, and has now been linked to the same HPV virus associated with cervical cancer.

Colleen Zenk Pinter, who's played Barbara Ryan on the CBS soap opera "As the World Turns" for almost 30 years, has been involved in a real-life drama, fighting oral cancer, a potential killer few people have even heard of, for the past seven months.

She discussed the medical and professional challenges it posed with co-anchor Hannah Storm on The Early Show Thursday.

Pinter, 54, who doesn't smoke or drink, told Storm that, at first, she thought she had a common canker sore, which went away. But when it came back and persisted, she saw her doctor, who had her go to a specialist the next day.

Three surgeries later, including removal and reconstruction of part of, and the insertion of radioactive beads in her tongue, she's been declared cancer-free.

The only noticeable lingering effect is a slight lisp, and she's been back at work.

Pinter says fans thought she'd had a stroke, or dental work done.

She stressed to Storm that everyone should be screened for oral cancer on a regular basis, by their dentist or another health care provider.

For much more on Pinter's story, watch the interview by

.

For a wealth of resources, visit the Web site of the Oral Cancer Foundation.