Sharma Mulqueen RDH
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month
Early detection is key with oral cancer. When found early, oral cancer patients can have an 80 to 90% survival rate. Unfortunately 40% of those diagnosed with oral cancer will die within five years because the majority of these cases will be discovered as a late stage malignancy.
Oral cancer is particularly dangerous, because the patient may not notice it in its early stages. It can frequently prosper without producing pain or symptoms. As a result, Oral Cancer often goes undetected until it has already metastasized to another location.
Who does oral cancer screenings?
Most oral cancer screenings are done by a Dentist or Hygienist. It is very important at all of your dental appointments you have a screening completed.
When should I have my first oral cancer screening?
More people are being diagnosed with oral cancer than ever before. But surprisingly, research shows this increase is not due to the traditional risk factors of drinking, smoking and using chewing tobacco. Rather oral cancer is now being found in a younger population of men and women because due to their exposure to the HPV (Human Papillomavirus). That is why the Center for Disease Control recommends that all patients over the age of 17 be screened annually for oral cancer.
What types of screenings are there?
A routine “recall” exam usually includes a visual search for lesions and abnormal structures in the oral cavity with palpitations on neck, throat, tongue and cheeks.
The Identafi system uses the Identafi Multi-Spectral Fluorescence and Reflectance technology to enhance visualization of mucosal abnormalities such as oral cancer or premalignant dysplasia that may not be apparent to the naked eye. Unlike other fluorescence technologies and dye systems, the Identafi is Multi-Spectral with three distinct color wavelengths, making it easier to distinguish lesion morphology and vasculature.
The VELscope® Vx system is an adjunctive device which means it must be used together with and as a supplement to the traditional intra and extra oral head and neck exam. Unlike other adjunctive devices used for oral examinations, the VELscope® Vx does not require any dyes or prolonged testing procedures. In fact, a VELscope® Vx exam can be performed during a routine hygiene exam in about two minutes at your dental office.
Dentists, Hygienists, Periodontists, Oral Surgeons, Primary Care Physicians and Otolaryngologists now have the technology to detect morphological and biochemical changes which may lead to oral cancer and potentially save lives, thanks to the Identafi® and VELscope® Vx systems.
Where do I go if there is any concern with my screening?
You will be referred to an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons where they will check for lesions and abnormal tissue structures and perform a biopsy.
Oral Surgeons are not front-line detectors, because their patients are typically referred by dentist and other medical professionals as a primary source for cancer diagnosis and treatment.
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