Oral cancer is a common reality in households all across the world. In the United States alone, one person dies of oral cancer every single hour. Unfortunately, this means that in any given year, oral cancer kills more people in the United States than other common cancers such as skin, lymphatic, thyroid, and cervical cancers.
An estimated 37,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. More than half of these will be diagnosed as late stage cancers. Like many other cancers, oral cancers that are found in later stages have significantly lower survival rates – sometimes even 20-30%. What is more, late stage oral cancers require more invasive surgical treatment, oftentimes leaving individuals with an overall loss of oral function.
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
Historically, the majority of oral cancer cases were diagnosed among three risk groups – people over the age of 50, tobacco users, and heavy alcohol consumers. However, this disease pattern has changed dramatically in recent years due to new risk factors that have entered the scene. Today, oral cancer is being diagnosed at an alarming rate in people between the ages of 25 and 50, the majority of whom are non-smokers. These new cases are largely attributable to the emergence of a cancer-causing virus called Human Papilliomavirus–16 (HPV-16) – the same virus that is responsible for the majority of cervical cancers. HPV-16 may be sexually transmitted between partners and accounts for the recent increase in oral cancer rates among young, non-smoking victims who do not fall into historical high-risk groups. This alarming trend highlights the stark reality that each and every adult, not just those over the age of 50, is susceptible to oral cancer and should thus be regularly screened.
The high death rates associated with oral cancer are largely attributable to late discovery and diagnosis. The good news is that oral cancer, when found early, has survival rates of 80-90%. What is more, oral cancer can be detected in these early stages using simple, inexpensive, and painless screening. The best way to ensure that you remain healthy and up-to-date with annual screenings is to demand that your dentist or dental hygienist perform a yearly oral cancer screening exam. During this painless, 3-5 minute screening, most of the signs of oral cancer can be detected with the eye or felt with the fingers.
Oral Cancer Screening Devices Available
At Spectrum Dentistry, we also offer the VELscope™ exam to our patients as an additional screening tool to help identify and photograph cancerous and precancerous growths that may not be detectible with traditional oral exams. A VELscope™ exam is both quick and painless. Because it can identify cellular changes and abnormal growths before they become cancerous, cancers that are found with VELscope™ exams have increased five-year survival rates of 80% or higher. Irregularities that are identified during yearly oral cancer screenings are then easily biopsied for a definitive diagnosis.
At Spectrum Dentistry, your overall health is our number one concern. With annual screenings and VELscope™ exams, you can rest assured that you will always receive the best and most up-to-date healthcare. For more information regarding oral cancer and the VELscope™ System, please visit www.oralcancerfoundation.org or www.velscope.com. Or simply call us with any questions you may have.
ViziLite® TBlue® is a quick and easy to use system that takes 2 minutes to complete through this patented and clinically proven technology. This test is very effective in supplementing the visual examination in identifying lesions associated with precancerous or cancerous cells. Clinical studies have shown that ViziLite® TBlue® has not produced any false negative outcomes and significantly reduces the number of lesions as false positives. However, a positive finding must be followed up with a biopsy for a definitive diagnosis.
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