According to research conducted by the American Cancer Society, more than 30,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year. More than 7,000 of these cases result in the death of the patient. The good news is that oral cancer can easily be diagnosed with an annual oral cancer exam, and effectively treated when caught in its earliest stages.
Oral cancer is a pathologic process which begins with an asymptomatic stage during which the usual cancer signs may not be readily noticeable. This makes the oral cancer examinations performed by the dentist critically important. Oral cancers can be of varied histologic types such as teratoma, adenocarcinoma and melanoma. The most common type of oral cancer is the malignant squamous cell carcinoma. This oral cancer type usually originates in lip and mouth tissues.
There are many different places in the oral cavity and maxillofacial region in which oral cancers commonly occur, including:
- Salivary Glands
- Oropharyngeal Region (throat)
One person dies every hour from oral cancer in the US, and the mortality has remained unchanged for more than 40 years. Late detection of oral cancer is the primary contributing factor to this alarming statistic. As with most other cancers, early detection is very important. Although age, tobacco and alcohol use increase the probability of oral cancer, 27% of oral cancer victims have no lifestyle risk factors. According to the American Cancer Society, more women in the US will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year than will be diagnosed with cervical cancer. Furthermore, there are as many cases of oral cancer caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease, as there are HPV-related cases of cervical cancer.
When oral cancer is diagnosed in its earliest stages, treatment is generally very effective. Any noticeable abnormalities in the tongue, gums, mouth or surrounding area should be evaluated by a health professional as quickly as possible. During the oral cancer exam, the dentist and dental hygienist will be scrutinizing the maxillofacial and oral regions carefully for signs of pathologic changes.
In our continuing effort to provide the most advanced technology and highest standard of care available to our patients, this practice is proud to announce the inclusion of the VELscope® as an integral part of our annual comprehensive oral cancer screening program. VELscope® uses direct tissue fluorescence visualization to aid the dental professional in seeing oral abnormalities that are or could become cancer.
Due to the increase prevalence of HPV, this oral cancer screening is recommended annually for everyone age 17 and over. Conducting an oral cancer screening with the VELscope® improves our ability to identify and evaluate suspicious areas at their earliest stages. Early detection of pre-cancerous lesions can minimize or eliminate the potentially disfiguring effects of oral cancer and possibly save your life. Proven screening technologies such as a mammogram, Pap smear, PSA and colonoscopy are routinely utilized to detect cancer in its early stages. An oral cancer screening with the VELscope® is easy and painless and gives this practice the best chance to find any abnormalities you may have at the earliest possible stage. Oral cancer risk by patient profile is listed below:
Increased risk: Patients age 17-39; sexually active patients (due to the threat of HPV)
High risk: Patients age 40 and older, tobacco users younger than 40
Highest risk: Patients 40 and older and lifestyle risk factors (tobacco use, alcohol, etc.); patients with a history of oral or other cancers.
How does the VELscope® work?
The VELscope® uses Fluorescence Visualization (FV) in an exciting new way. Essentially, bright blue light is shone into the mouth to expose changes and lesions that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye. One of the biggest difficulties in diagnosing oral cancer is that its symptoms look similar to symptoms of less serious problems. The VELscope® System affords the dentist important insight as to what is happening beneath the surface.
The healthy soft tissue of the mouth naturally absorbs the VELscope® frequency of blue light. Healthy areas beneath the surface of the soft tissue show up green, and the problem areas become much darker.
Here are some of the advantages of using the VELscope® System:
- Can be combined with digital photography.
- Detects lesions, white and red patches.
- Detects problem areas that cannot be seen under white light.
- Exposes precancerous and cancerous tissue.
- Helps dentists check that diseased soft tissue is completely removed.
- Helps diagnose oral cancer in its earliest stages, exponentially increasing the chance of survival.
- Quick, painless examinations.
If you have any questions about oral cancer screening or VELscope®, please contact our office and we'll be happy to help.