You probably do not think about oral cancer very often. Most people don’t. What you need to understand is that most people who have oral cancer until it reaches advanced stages. This is why we need to have an oral cancer screening. At that point, the 5-year survival rate drops drastically. We use VELscope technology to check for oral cancer more accurately and more quickly than was possible with older methods.
VELscope is a hand-held tool we use to check for oral cancer. The tool works by illuminating the oral tissue with a special blue-spectrum light. Tissues with abnormal changes fluoresce and can be identified when seen under the light. Having abnormal changes may mean you have oral cancer or dysplasia, an early stage of cancer development. It only takes 2 minutes for our dentist to use the VELscope for an oral cancer screening.
Comprehensive Oral Exam
Along with the VELscope, we also need to conduct a comprehensive oral exam. We check your head and neck for any signs of enlargement or abnormality. Our dentist checks the inside of your mouth thoroughly to ensure there are no signs of cancer.
Why Early Detection Is So Importan
The sooner you know you have oral cancer, the greater the chance you have of overcoming it. In fact, if your cancer is detected early, your chances of surviving 5 years are 83%. If you don’t get cancer screenings and only find out in the later stages of the disease, your chances of surviving years drop to 50%. And, if you find out you don’t have cancer, you can breathe easily and know you are staying informed about your health.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
By far, the most significant risk factors are the use of tobacco and alcohol. It doesn’t matter whether you smoke cigarettes, cigars or a pipe, either. And, smokeless tobacco is a major risk factor too. Alcohol use alone also can lead to oral cancer. However, the combination of tobacco and alcohol poses the greatest risk of all. If you engage in these risky behaviors, it is of the utmost importance that you keep your routine appointments to have oral cancer screenings.
What If You Quit Using Tobacco
We highly recommend quitting tobacco use immediately if you haven’t already. If you have, you still have a greater risk of oral cancer than someone who has never used tobacco. The good news is that within 5 years of the time you quit, your risk reduces by 50%.
Do You Still Need Oral Cancer Screenings If You Have Never Used Tobacco or Alcohol?
Yes! Even if you have none of these apparent risks, you still could get oral cancer. As with any cancer, family history and environment can play a part. Other factors include:
- Past history of cancer
- Human Papilloma Virus (HPV16)
- A compromised immune system
We are committed to ensuring our patients have the best possible information on their oral health. That’s why we strongly encourage you to come in for your routine oral cancer screenings. When it only takes a few minutes to find out, isn’t it better to know?