Oral and pharyngeal cancers cause about 8,000 deaths annually. Only about half of the 43,250 Americans diagnosed each year with one of these types of cancer will survive the five-year mark.
Our dentists here at Tewksbury Dental Associates want to help change that. Doing so requires detection, and that can be accomplished through routine oral cancer screenings using the VELscope® Vx Enhanced Oral Assessment System.
“Early detection makes a wider variety of treatment options available to patients, and potentially paves the way for less invasive treatment options,” says Dr. Nitish Nahata. “We recently added this oral cancer assessment system to our practice because we want to do our part to help improve the survivor rate.”
Here’s how VELscope® works:
- Our dentists and hygienists use the handheld scope to shine a bright blue light inside your mouth.
- The distinctive blue-spectrum light causes your soft tissue to naturally flow when viewed through the VELscope®’s filter.
- Areas of your tongue or mouth that have neoplastic (cancerous) lesions or fungal, viral or bacterial infections don’t illuminate under the blue light.
This device quite literally shines a light on potentially precancerous and cancerous areas that aren’t visible with the naked eye.
VELscope® doesn’t replace the conventional oral cancer screening method of visually inspecting and palpating the soft tissue, tongue and neck that we routinely have done at hygiene appointments for years. It is a handy supplement that allows us to see a bit more than we can with the naked eye, which is great for early detection of areas of concern, Dr. Nahata says.
Why is this so important? When discovered early, the five-year survival rate for oral cancer patients is about 83 percent, according to the National Institute of Dental and Carniofacial Research. Sadly, oral cancer often goes undiagnosed until it has reached an advanced stage.
Oral cancer in its early stages frequently goes unnoticed by patients, because it can progress without causing pain or noticeable symptoms, according to The Oral Cancer Foundation.
We offer VELscope® oral cancer screenings at your routine dental exams and teeth cleaning appointments. It’s a good idea for all patients to undergo an oral cancer screening at these appointments, but it’s particular important if you have any of the following risk factors identified with by The Oral Cancer Foundation:
- Age- oral cancer historically occurs in people age 40 and older. The fastest growing segment of the oral cancer population is nonsmokers younger than age 50.
- Tobacco use – about 75 percent of those diagnosed at 50 and older have been tobacco users.
- Alcohol consumption (especially in conjunction with tobacco use) – those who smoke and drink are 15 times more likely to develop oral cancer than others.
- Human papilloma virus(HPV) 16 – this virus is associated with cancers that occur in the back of the mouth.
- Poor diet – some studies suggest a diet low in fruits and vegetables could increase one’s risk for developing oral cancer.
- Sun exposure – any part of your skin that faces the sun is at risk for developing skin cancer. This also applies to the lips and the tip of the nose, so wear a hat or sunscreen/lip balm when you can.
Please call our office today if you would like to learn more about our oral cancer screening, or to schedule an appointment.