Oral cancer kills one person every hour, 24 hours per day in North America, and its incidence is increasing. Unlike many other forms of cancer, the survival rate has not improved significantly in decades. The 5-year survival rate is quite low, at 52%, but increases dramatically to 80-90% when the cancer is detected in its early stages. Unfortunately, only about 35% of cases are diagnosed in the early stages. This sad fact is because most cancers start below the surface of the tissues in the mouth, where they cannot be detected by the naked eye. Until recently, there have been few advances in cancer screening technology.
At our dental practice, we take the health of our patients very seriously. We are happy to provide to our patients the latest in oral cancer screening technology, the Velscope. The Velscope uses a specific wavelength of light that causes healthy tissue to fluoresce, or glow, when observed through a special lens. Unhealthy tissue shows as a dark shadow, and indicates the need for further investigation. Fortunately, not every shadow means cancer; something as simple as a pizza burn can show up as a dark patch. If we find something unusual, we will usually have you back for a second screening two weeks later to see if the shadow is still present. If it is, further testing is then required to determine the exact nature of the dark spot.
We recommend that our patients undergo screening with the Velscope once per year, as per the recommendation of our medical doctor colleagues. We also usually recommend an X-ray that shows the jaws clearly every five years, to screen for cysts and other problems that occasionally appear in the jaw bones.
For more information on the Velscope and cancer screening, please visit www.velscope.com.