By Dr. Carrie Hansen
In the United States, one person every hour of every day dies of oral cancer. In women, its rate is higher than the rate of cervical cancer, and it is the sixth leading form of cancer among men. An alarming 25% of victims have no lifestyle risk factors for the development of oral cancer, and it is being diagnosed at an increasing rate among young adults. There is a high survival rate among sufferers when detected early, but in its late stage the five year survival rate is a modest 57%.
Oral cancer does not discriminate and most people are not even aware that they are at risk. Scientists have recently established a connection between experiencing an HPV viral infection in the mouth and this type of cancer. Additional risk factors are:
• Tobacco and Alcohol use
• Men between the ages of 40 and 60
• A family history of oral, head or neck cancers
• Poor oral hygiene, including the irritation of oral membranes
caused by rough surfaces and broken or protruding teeth
• Poor nutrition
There are many types of oral cancer, but the vast majority may start in any tissues that line the mouth or lips. Advanced stage symptoms might include a lesion, lump or ulcer on the tongue, lips or mouth that does not heal within two weeks. An individual may also experience difficulty in swallowing, white or red patches in the mouth, and pain, tingling, or burning of the oral cavity. Unfortunately, in it’s late stage, oral cancer treatment options are limited to surgical removal of the affected tissue, and subsequent reconstructive surgery to correct disfigurement, which can result in the limited ability to swallow, high frequency hearing loss, and sinus damage.
Fortunately, advancements in technology have unveiled a powerful tool for assisting in the discovery of oral cancer at its earliest stage before it can even be detected by traditional
visual oral exams!
Since the Fall of 2010, our dental office has been one of the few practices to include the VELscope Vx oral cancer screening as part of our patients’ comprehensive oral exams. This cutting edge technology utilizes a narrow band of safe, high energy blue light with special filtering characteristics to thoroughly evaluate oral tissue for cancerous lesions that escape the naked eye. A recent study conducted by the University of Montreal concluded that the inclusion of the use of this screener in comprehensive oral exams significantly increases the detection rate of oral cancer in its earliest stage when its survival rate is at least 90%.
At the office of Dr. Carrie Hansen, DDS, we care about your health as well as your teeth. By including the use of the Velscope Vx cancer screening technology as part of our patients’ oral exams, we have reaffirmed our proactive approach to oral care by detecting abnormalities when proper treatment can have promising results.