Any “cancer” is an abnormal and uncontrollable spread of cells that cause damage to the body; oral cancer, or cancer of the mouth, usually shows itself as a large sore or mass of tissue in the mouth or throat. Like many cancers, oral cancer can be life threatening, especially if it’s not diagnosed in its early stages; the five-year survival rate for late-stage oral cancer is as low as 30%.
While oral cancer can affect anyone, those who smoke, chew tobacco, consume alcohol excessively, or expose themselves excessively to sun or tanning booths are at increased risk for developing a cancerous growth. Genetics also play a small role in determining oral cancer predisposition.
What are the Symptoms?
Like other cancers, oral cancer can develop gradually or quite suddenly, so it’s important to perform self-checks frequently in between your dental visits. Symptoms of oral cancer include:
- Pain in the mouth, face, or ears
- Pain while chewing or swallowing
- Mouth ulcers or red and white plaque growths inside the mouth
- Bad breath
- Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck
- Because the symptoms of oral cancer can seem similar to a virus or strep throat, it’s important to see your doctor right away if you experience mouth or throat pain, and get a cancer screening.
Preventing Oral Cancer with Velscope®
Although prognoses of late-stage oral cancer are uncertain, catching oral cancer early increases the average survival rate to between 80 and 90%. Your dental care provider plays a chief role in helping you prevent oral cancer; the screening process is made easier with products like Velscope® that can pick of signs of cancer invisible to the naked eye.
What is Velscope®?
Velscope® is an FDA approved screening device that shines a fluorescent light into the mouth, which can display potentially harmful tissues that appear a darker color when exposed to the light. If the light reveals a possible cancerous cell, your doctor or dentist will provide a biopsy to check for cancer or other bacteria.
Benefits of Velscope®
The Velscope® device is hand-held and cordless, able to look into the nooks and crannies of each mouth to scan for potentially cancerous areas. Besides catching cancerous cells earlier than almost any other screening, Velscope® also provides the following benefits:
- Completely noninvasive: no patient discomfort
- Easy photo-documentation of suspicious lesions in the mouth
- Affordable to patients: a mere handful of dollars more per visit
- Quick and easy to incorporate into a regular dental checkup
While it’s recommended to get screened for oral cancer frequently if you are predisposed with additional risk factors like smoking, genetic history, or sun exposure, your dentist may offer a Velscope® screening with your normal checkup even if you show no signs of developing oral cancer. With this preventative screening, any signs of oral cancer can be diagnosed as early as possible, even before symptoms show, increasing prognosis and potentially saving lives. Ask your dentist about Velscope® today!