Although many cancers have seen improvement in their survival rates, oral cancer has not. This is primarily because oral cancer remains difficult to detect using traditional methods. With later detection, there are greater chances that the cancer has become more aggressive and has spread to other parts of the body, making treatment harder. But VELscope oral cancer screening is changing that. Using a special light that makes normal tissues glow (fluoresce) to expose potentially cancerous lesions, VELscope makes it easier for us to screen for oral cancer and ensure patients get treatment sooner.
Why Oral Cancer Screening Is Critical
We have already stated that early discovery of oral cancer makes a big difference in survival rates, but you need to know how dramatic this difference is. With early detection, the 5-year survival rate for oral cancers is about 83%. With later detection, survival rates drop to around 50%. Would you rather have a ⅚ chance of surviving cancer or ½?
Another major issue is that the population being diagnosed with cancer is changing. In the past, most cancer cases were diagnosed among older individuals with known risk factors, such as tobacco use, alcohol consumption, compromised immune system, and previous cancer occurrence. Even if we account for the involvement of the human papilloma virus (HPV), more cases are being diagnosed among people who have no known risk factors, including people under the age of 40.
Because of this, it’s important that everyone get cancer screenings as part of their regular oral hygiene visits, especially when these screenings can be utterly noninvasive and very convenient.
Benefits of VELscope
VELscope is not the only cancer screening technology available, but it does have some advantages over other technologies. These include:
- Painless and completely safe
- Doesn’t require any special rinses
- Only takes two minutes
- Compact design of handpiece allows for easy use in all areas of the mouth, including upper throat
- High sensitivity (98-100%) and specificity (94-100%)
These make VELscope a great cancer screening tool that is likely to continue growing in popularity.
How VELscope Works
Tissue responds differently to light depending on whether it’s healthy or abnormal. But it doesn’t always respond to all light differently. Often, visual light is reflected by healthy and unhealthy tissues in the same way, making them impossible to see in a normal exam. But under certain colors of light, they respond very differently, causing abnormal lesions to stand out.
VELscope uses a particular color of light that makes healthy tissues glow a bright green. But abnormal tissue remains dark. This tells us that you have an area of concern.
VELscope is a cancer screening tool, not a cancer diagnosis tool. VELscope won’t tell us that you do have cancer, it just identifies unhealthy regions in the mouth that may be cancerous. If we identify such a region, we will refer you to an oral surgeon who will perform a biopsy–take a small tissue sample–to determine whether the area is cancerous.
If you are looking for a Philadelphia dentist who includes VELscope oral cancer screening in their practice, please call (610) 272-0828 for an appointment at Dental Excellence of Blue Bell.