This past month has been Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and just as technology continues to help in screening for other deadly diseases, we have been able to enhance how we screen our patients for oral cancer through the use of VELscope technology. Before we explain how our VELscope benefits our patient family, let’s take a moment to better understand oral cancer.
It is predicted that over 45,000 Americans will be diagnosed with some form of oral cancer this year, with nearly 20% unable to beat the disease. Typically, oral cancer is identified during an oral examination at your routine hygiene visits by detecting tissue changes in your mouth that are physically seen or felt. Signs and symptoms that point to oral cancer include sores that do not heal within 2-3 weeks, discoloration of the gums or lips, lumps that do not go away, numbness, and a persistent sore throat or cough.
Controlling known risk factors can greatly reduce your chances of developing oral cancer. These include tobacco use in all forms, excessive alcohol consumption, and HPV (human papilloma virus) infections. Two of these factors are avoided through a preventable lifestyle, and a HPV vaccine is available. With the number of people at risk for oral cancer increasing, regular visits to your dentist for screenings become even more important.
Early discovery of oral cancer may be the biggest factor affecting a patient’s survival rate. When discovered early, the five-year survival rate is about 83%, but when detected in late stages that rate drops to 50%. While oral examinations have been effective in detecting oral cancer, they are only helpful when the cancer can be seen or felt. This brings us to the benefits of the VELscope. The device emits a blue light that allows the dentist to distinguish between healthy tissue and tissue that has been affected by trauma, fungus, viruses, bacteria, or cancer before they become visible with the naked eye. When used alongside an oral examination it can provide timely information to us that leads to earlier detection of abnormal tissues and provides better outcomes for our patients.
Click here for more information on oral cancer, and as always, if you have questions or concerns about oral cancer, call us today at (765) 448-4242!