Oral Cancer Screening
An important part of preventive oral care is cancer screening. We offer oral assessment for suspicious abnormalities with the VELscope ® system.
Oral cancer is diagnosed in approximately 43,000 Americans per year. It results in about 8,000 deaths per year. Many times it is not found until it has spread to areas such as the larynx. Oral cancer used to be mostly diagnosed in those over 40. Recently, an increase is being seen in teenagers related to human papilloma virus (HPV) and those who use chewing or other forms of tobacco other than smoking. These forms of tobacco are being touted as “safer” than smoking for lungs, but in reality it is a danger to oral tissues, an increase risk for pancreatic cancer, periodontal disease, and other chronic conditions.
Risk factors for oral cancer not only include tobacco use and HPV. Other risk factors are alcohol use and tenacious viral infections. Symptoms may be completely absent. There may be no obvious changes in the tissues. This is why it is important to have regular dental examinations and cancer screenings.
In addition to your regular visual examination, the VELscope ® unit is a scope that assists us in identifying cancerous or precancerous tissues. It is a handheld device which uses a special light for examination of the mouth, including the tongue. Healthy tissue naturally appears brighter and disruptions indicate disease or trauma. These areas can be related to cancer or infections. No dyes or long procedures are needed to use the VELscope ® system.
The wireless VELscope ® handset projects a safe, blue light into the mouth. It cause the tissues within the mouth to fluoresce, or shine. Abnormal cells will lack the fluorescence of normal cells. If Dr. Schmidt sees any areas that do not fluoresce as expected, further diagnostic tests will be required. Biopsy of the suspicious tissue will be done and sent to a lab for determination of whether or not it is cancer or pre- cancerous tissue.
Because the LED light from the unit is sensitive to abnormal tissues, it can detect very early mucosal changes. VELscope ® may be used to find fungal or bacterial infection, inflammation, squamous papillomas, salivary gland tumors, cancer, pre-cancer, and other oral conditions. Early discovery of oral cancers allows for early treatment and a significantly higher survival rate. Evaluation and treatment in the earliest stages of any cancer increase the chances of successful treatment as well as increased treatment options.
Using VELscope ®, Dr. Schmidt can easily observe all of the intraoral mucosal areas, and take digital images to be used for documentation in your chart or to send to specialists if referral is necessary.
The best way to avoid oral cancer is to discontinue or avoid any risk factors, especially those that use tobacco directly against the cheek and gums. Practice good dental care at home, including regular brushing and flossing. Visit Dr. Schmidt every six months for regular dental prophylaxis (scaling and polishing) and examination. VELscope ® adds an important step in addition to visual and palpation of the face and neck in identification of oral cancers.