Oral Cancer Screening

For the year 2017, the Oral Cancer Foundation predicted that approximately 49,750 individuals would be newly diagnosed with oral cancer in the United States. This number has steadily increased over the past decades and the death rate is very high. Oral cancer falls into the head and neck category of cancers, and about 50% of those diagnosed will not survive more than 5 years. The problem? Oral cancer is usually detected too late. About 70% of the time, the cancer is discovered in its late development and unfortunately, the outcome is not positive.

Traditionally, oral cancer has been associated with individuals over 40 years of age who regularly use tobacco and/or alcohol. But surprisingly, the fastest growing group of individuals with oral cancer are the young and healthy, under the age of 40. New research confirms that the cause for oral cancer amongst young people is the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), particulary HPV 16 and HPV 18.

Despite these alarming statistics, there are preventative measures an individual can take. Besides avoiding tobacco and alcohol use, getting an annual oral screening would be beneficial. Our practice has purchased a state-of-the-art device called the VELscope. The VELscope is an extremely effective tool in discovering oral cancer in its early stages. In a conventional oral exam, the naked eye is used to look for lesions inside your mouth and your neck is checked for suspicious bumps. But the VELscope goes further and uses natural tissue fluorescent light to discover abnormalities that are not apparent to the naked eye. Essentially, it sees beneath the surface and can detect potentially dangerous growths. With this technology, the VELscope has been effective in discovering oral cancer in its early stages, thus timely information is provided for dentists and patients, resulting in better outcomes. When oral cancer is found in its early stage, the five year survival rate is about 83 percent, which is a significant improvement from the five year survival rate of 50 percent for late stage discoveries.

Although diagnoses for oral cancer has steadily increased over the past decades, the VELscope is an important tool in fighting oral cancer. If you have any questions or it’s been a while since your last oral exam, give our office a call at 916-972-0788 and we can schedule an appointment for you.