Oral Cancer screening with Velscope technology June 15, 2009, 4:04 p.m.
More than 480,000 new cases of oral and throat cancers will be diagnosed worldwide this year, with over 35,000 of those cases in the United States. Over 45% of those diagnosed will not be alive in 5 years. Oral cancer kills one person every hour, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week in the United States. The most common risk factors are people over the age of 40, tobacco use (all types) and alcohol use. 75% of all oral cancers are diagnosed in people who use tobacco products. Those who use tobacco AND alcohol have an even higher risk. A connection between oral cancer and the human papilloma virus (HPV-16) has been discovered that helps to explain a recent 60% increase over the past decade in the number of oral cancer diagnoses in people under the age of 30 with none of the classic risk factors listed above. This is the same virus responsible for cervical cancer in women.
How can you avoid becoming a cancer statistic? A visit to the dentist is a critical part of the solution. “Regular dental visits should include a comprehensive examination of the soft tissues of the head and neck at least annually. Your dental hygienist and dentist should be doing a careful screening and taking a closer look at anything that seems suspicious” states Dr. Rich. He goes on to say that, “There are diagnostic aids like the Velscope and the Oral CDx brush biopsy system to further evaluate anything that seems out of the ordinary without resorting to an invasive scalpel biopsy unless the screening clearly shows that to be necessary.” Dr. Rich is one of the few dentists in the South Sound region that have purchased the Velscope technology for their patients and has trained his dental hygienists in its use. “We don’t charge our regular patients a separate fee to use the Velscope. It is part of our regular preventive cleaning and examination appointments. The technology is fairly expensive, but if it saves even one life, it was more than worth it” stated Dr. Rich.