Early Detection With an Oral Cancer Screening Can Help You Beat It!
Oral cancer includes cancer of the lips, tongue, cheeks, the floor of the mouth, and hard palate. While it accounts for less than 5% of all cancers in the U.S., oral cancer can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated early. Oral cancer is the #11 cause of cancer mortality. At Peters Dental Associates, we make oral cancer screening an integral part of every patient visit to our Clear Lake, TX office, including dental cleanings and exams. Plus, we’ve recently added the latest oral cancer screening technology, VELscope® Vx Enhanced Oral Assessment.
Do I need to worry about oral cancer if I don’t smoke or drink much?
Many people think that they don’t need to worry about oral cancer if they don’t smoke or drink heavily. Though these habits are significant factors, 25% of all oral cancers occur in people who don’t smoke and who only drink occasionally. At Peters Dental Associates, more and more of our oral cancer patients now are young, healthy, nonsmoking individuals that have the human papilloma virus (HPV). You may have heard of this virus in connection with cervical cancer, but it also increases the risk of oral cancer.
EARLY DETECTION IS KEY
We can’t stop the spread of the virus, so the best chance we have for saving lives is through early detection and public awareness.
These are the survival rates by the stage:
- Stage 1 = 80-85%
- Stage 2 = 60-75%
- Stage 3 = 35-66%
- Stage 4 = 15-30%.
The five-year survival rate for oral cancer patients is about 83% with early detection. Unfortunately, most oral cancers are detected in later stages, whether due to patients skipping regular dental exams or lack of proper diagnostic practices during those exams. We encourage you to call and schedule an appointment at our office in Clear Lake, TX. With your participation, we will do our part in reducing the death rate from this disease.
What are the symptoms of oral cancer?
These are the most common symptoms of oral cancer:
- Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- Soreness or a feeling that something is caught in the back of the throat
- Swellings, lumps, bumps, rough spots/crusts on the lips, gums, or other areas inside the mouth
- White, red, or speckled patches in the mouth
- Numbness, loss of feeling, or pain/tenderness in any area of the face, mouth, neck, or ear
- Persistent sores on the face, neck, or mouth that bleed easily and don’t heal within two weeks
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, moving the jaw or tongue
- Hoarseness, chronic sore throat, or change in voice (usually slurred speech)
- A lump in the neck
- Dramatic weight loss
Men account for 70% of oral cancers, with men over the age of 50 at a greater risk.
How do you do oral cancer screening?
At Peters Dental Associates, we use VELscope® technology for oral cancer screenings. Before we had this technology, we performed oral cancer screenings the traditional way. A doctor would feel for lumps or irregular tissue changes in the mouth, head, face, and neck and look for sores or discolored tissue, and inquire about any of the symptoms we list above. While this method was fairly reliable, the VELscope® system adds a new level of diagnostic proficiency.
What is VELscope®?
The VELscope® Vx Enhanced Oral Assessment System uses a handheld scope to help visualize oral tissue abnormalities, including cancer and pre-cancer. Adding the VELscope system to our manual screening techniques gives us much stronger oral cancer screening capability.
How does VELscope® work?
The VELscope® Vx handheld device emits a harmless, bright blue light that is used to inspect the mouth and tongue. The device is sensitive to abnormal tissue changes and the distinctive blue-spectrum light causes the soft tissue (oral mucosa) of the mouth to naturally fluoresce. Healthy tissue fluoresces in distinct patterns that are visibly disrupted when tissue undergoes abnormal change such as with oral cancer. Often these tissues cannot be seen with the naked eye alone, so the VELscope system gives the team at Peters Dental a real leg up in diagnosing oral cancer.
How long does the screening take, and does it hurt?
At Peters Dental Associates, we now add VELscope Vx exams to our routine hygiene exams. They only take around two minutes and are painless.
Can I prevent oral cancer?
There are several things you can do to reduce your risk oral cancer:
- Don’t smoke or use tobacco products.
- Drink only in moderation.
- Eat a healthy diet, especially rich in vegetables with vitamin A.
- Limit your sun exposure and cover your lips and skin with sunscreen.
- Studies have linked The HPV virus to oral cancer, so some types of sexual contact can increase the risk of oral cancer.