Velscope Detects Oral Cancer Earlier
Question: “Dr. Arnold, my aunt had a large oral cancer removed last month. What are dentists doing to detect oral cancer?”
Answer: Obviously, prevention of oral cancer is the most effective way to avoid being affected by this all-too-common condition. The majority of oral cancer is caused by tobacco use. Excessive alcohol consumption can also play a role, and people who both use tobacco and alcohol are much more likely to develop oral cancer.
Studies show that oral cancer has a five-year survival rate of about 52%. Early detection tends to increase this percentage tremendously, but less than half of these incidences are detected in the early stages. Cellular changes that lead to oral cancer generally begin below the surface, and it is often difficult to detect until it progresses to the surface.
Fortunately, there is new technology available to dentists that allow them to see these cellular changes before they reach the surface. A thorough oral exam is still necessary, but Velscope technology is a very effective adjunct for identifying abnormalities that may not be visible to the naked eye.
The Velscope handpiece shines a blue light into the mouth that allows dental professionals to view and evaluate the fluorescence response of tissue. Normal, healthy tissue generally shows a green pattern of fluorescence, while diseased tissue typically appears to be dark due to a loss of fluorescence.
This new diagnostic tool only takes few minutes to use and has likely saved many lives due to its ability to detect oral cancer or pre-cancerous lesions earlier than before. The Velscope is a handheld device that is very comfortable to use with patients, and this service typically costs about $25. Screening with the Velscope is recommended for adults once or twice per year, depending upon the specific risk factors present.
If abnormal cellular changes are suspected, it is important to follow up with a biopsy of the area to determine the severity of the condition. The earlier these areas are detected and removed, the more likely the patient will be to survive this condition.
Dr. Jim Arnold is a practicing dentist in Chesterton and Valparaiso. He is also a clinical mentor with the Hornbrook Group and serves on the Advisory Board for the Academy of Comprehensive Esthetics as the Fellowship Chairman. You may send questions to his office at: 1830 South 11th Street, Chesterton, IN 46304 or email them to: drarnold@SmilesByArnold.com. More information on this or many other dental topics can be found at www.SmilesByArnold.com.