Why do you need to be screened for Oral Cancer?
More than 480,000 new cases of oral and throat cancers are diagnosed each year, and over 35,000 of those cases are right here in the United States. Oral cancer kills one person every hour in the U.S., and without proper detection methods, a person may have oral cancer and not even know it. In almost all cases of oral cancer, early detection plays a major role in a patient’s chances of survival. By diagnosing and treating oral cancer early, a patient’s five year survival rate is 80-90% greater.
Risk factors for oral cancer include:
- Frequent use of tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco)
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Genetics (a family history of oral cancer or any type of cancer)
- Excessive exposure to the sun at a young age
While men above the age of 50 are typically at the most risk for oral cancer, there has been a recent increase in the number of women with oral cancer due to a connection between oral cancer and the human papilloma virus (HPV-16).
Using VELscope to screen for Oral Cancer
The VELscope screening system consists of a specialized white light source and viewing scope that make it easier for your doctor to look closely at the tissues inside your mouth. Normal tissues will almost glow a bright green color. Abnormal tissue shows up much darker under the special light.
An abnormal screening does not always mean that the patient has cancer. If an abnormal screening occurs, your doctor may schedule a second scan later to see if the dark spots disappear, or may choose to perform a gentle, non-invasive brush biopsy to make sure it’s not cancer.