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Oral Cancer Exam and VELscope® Oral Cancer Screening

More than 30,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year, according to research from the American Cancer Society. More than 7,000 of these cases result in patient death. The good news is that oral cancer can easily be detected through annual oral cancer screenings, and is effectively treated when caught early.

Oral cancer is a disease that begins at an asymptomatic stage during which the normal symptoms of cancer cannot be readily detected. This makes oral cancer screening by a dentist all the more important. Oral cancer can include tissue types such as teratoma, adenocarcinoma, and melanoma. The most common type of oral cancer is malignant squamous cell carcinoma. This type of oral cancer usually arises in the lips and oral mucosa.

There are many different places in the oral cavity and maxillofacial region in which oral cancers commonly occur, including:
  • Lips
  • Mouth
  • Tongue
  • Salivary Glands
  • Oropharyngeal Region (throat)
  • Gums
  • Face
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 detected early, treatment is usually more effective. Any obvious abnormalities around the tongue, palate, or mouth should be evaluated by a health care professional as soon as possible. During the oral cancer screening, the dentist and dental technician will closely examine the frontal palate and oral regions for signs of pathological 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 exciting new ways. Specifically, bright blue light shines inside the mouth to reveal changes and lesions that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye One of the biggest challenges in diagnosing oral cancer is that its symptoms are similar to those of less serious problems. The VELscope® system gives the dentist important insight into what is happening below the surface.

The soft tissues of the nasopharynx naturally absorb the VELscope® frequency of blue light. Underneath the soft tissue, the healthy areas reflect green, and the problem areas are darker.

The benefits of using the VELscope® System include the following:

  • 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.
  • FDA-approved.
  • It helps dentists to check if diseased soft tissues have been completely removed.
  • It helps detect oral cancer in its earliest stages, increasing the chances 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.