Oral cancer is the largest group of head and neck cancers. One person dies per hour from oral cancer. When not detected and treated in the early stages, it can be a fatal condition. Oral cancer can begin in any region of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, and more. While it begins in the mouth, it can spread to other regions of your body. Early detection is essential for diagnosing oral cancer and providing you with the treatment you need. An oral cancer screening is done during your routine oral exams with your check up appointment.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
There are several known factors that can increase your risk of developing oral cancer. These risk factors include:
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
There are several different symptoms that can point toward oral cancer.
Any sore, discoloration, growth, irritation or hoarseness, which does not resolve within a two week period on its own, with or without treatment, should be considered suspect and worthy of further examination or biopsy. Besides a routine visit to the dental office for regular examinations, it is the patient’s responsibility to be aware of changes in their oral environment. When these changes occur, they need to be brought to the attention of a qualified dental professional for examination.
Using VELscope to Detect Oral Cancer
In addition to a visual examination of your intraoral tissues, we will also manually palpate your tongue, floor of your mouth, cheeks and the lymph nodes surrounding your oral cavity and in your neck. VELscope is an additional, non-invasive, screening tool. The device emits a harmless light that can show us the presence of potentially cancerous and precancerous tissues.
The VELscope emits a harmless blue light that shines into your mouth. Looking through a specialized lens, we examine your tissues. Healthy tissue appears green (fluoresces) through the lens. Precancerous and cancerous tissues, however, absorb the light and appear dark. Soft tissue that has been traumatized from hot foods/drinks, biting or other trauma will also cause tissue to appear dark under the VELscope.
Regular dental exams are not only important for detecting cavities and gum disease, but for detecting the early warning signs of oral cancer. By detecting oral cancer early, we can help you get the treatment you need to restore the health of your mouth. Early detection and treatment can even save your life. For more information on VELscope, and to schedule your next dental exam, call Mettler & Griego Family Dentistry at (623) 562-5230 today.
For additional information on oral cancer, go to: oralcancerfoundation.org