Oral Cancer Exams In Marietta
According to research conducted by the American Cancer society, more than 30,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year. More than 7,000 of these cases result in the death of the patient. The good news is that oral cancer can be diagnosed with an annual oral cancer exam, and effectively treated when caught in its earliest stages.
Oral cancer is often deemed the “forgotten disease,” because it kills more people than testicular cancer, cervical cancer and cancer of the brain each year and receives little publicity in return. Each year, over 30,000 Americans contract oral cancer, and only 57% of these people will live for more than five years without treatment.
Many people believe that if they abstain from tobacco and alcohol use, oral cancer will not affect them. Tobacco and alcohol use does contribute to oral cancer; however, 25% of those diagnosed abstain from both substances.
The best way to stay protected from oral cancer is to get annual oral cancer screenings. Most dentists perform an oral cancer exam during a regular dental checkup. The FDA-approved VELscope® offers dentists another examination tool to help detect oral cancer in its earliest stages. The VELscope® is a blue excitation lamp, which highlights precancerous and cancerous cell changes.Oral cancer is a pathologic process which begins with an asymptomatic stage during which the usual cancer signs may not be readily noticeable. This makes the oral cancer examinations performed by the dentist critically important. Oral cancers can be of varied histologic types such as teratoma, adenocarcinoma and melanoma. The most common type of oral cancer is the malignant squamous cell carcinoma. This oral cancer type usually originates in lip and mouth tissues.
There are many different places in the oral cavity and maxillofacial region in which oral cancers commonly occur, including:
Reasons for oral cancer examinations
It is important to note that around 75 percent of
oral cancers are linked with modifiable behaviors such as smoking,
tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption. Your dentist can provide
literature and education on making lifestyle changes and smoking
When oral cancer is diagnosed in its earliest stages,
treatment is generally very effective. Any noticeable abnormalities in
the tongue, gums, mouth or surrounding area should be evaluated by a
health professional as quickly as possible. During the oral cancer
exam, Dr. Cheek and your dental hygienist will be scrutinizing the
maxillofacial and oral regions carefully for signs of pathologic
The following signs will be investigated during a routine oral cancer exam:
Red patches and sores – Red
patches on the floor of the mouth, the front and sides of the tongue,
white or pink patches which fail to heal and slow healing sores that
bleed easily can be indicative of pathologic (cancerous) changes.
Leukoplakia – This is a
hardened white or gray, slightly raised lesion that can appear anywhere
inside the mouth. Leukoplakia can be cancerous, or may become cancerous
if treatment is not sought.
Lumps – Soreness, lumps or the general thickening of tissue anywhere in the throat or mouth can signal pathological problems.
Oral cancer exams, diagnosis and treatment
The oral cancer examination is a completely painless process. During the visual part of the examination, Dr. Cheek will look for abnormality and feel the face, glands and neck for unusual bumps. Lasers which can highlight pathologic changes are also a wonderful tool for oral cancer checks. The laser can “look” below the surface for abnormal signs and lesions which would be invisible to the naked eye. Dr. Cheek utilizes the VELscope oral cancer detection device.
If abnormalities, lesions, leukoplakia or lumps are apparent, the dentist will implement a diagnostic impression and treatment plan. In the event that the initial treatment plan is ineffective, a biopsy of the area will be performed. The biopsy includes a clinical evaluation which will identify the precise stage and grade of the oral lesion.
Oral cancer is deemed to be present when the basement membrane of the epithelium has been broken. Malignant types of cancer can readily spread to other places in the oral and maxillofacial regions, posing additional secondary threats. Treatment methods vary according to the precise diagnosis, but may include excision, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
During bi-annual check-ups, Dr. Cheek and your hygienist will thoroughly look for changes and lesions in the mouth, but a dedicated comprehensive oral cancer screening should be performed at least once each year.
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How does the VELscope® work?
uses Fluorescence Visualization (FV) in an exciting new way.
Essentially, bright blue light is shone into the mouth to expose changes
and lesions that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye. One of
the biggest difficulties in diagnosing oral cancer is that its symptoms
look similar to symptoms of less serious problems. The VELscope® System affords the dentist important insight as to what is happening beneath the surface.
The healthy soft tissue of the mouth naturally absorbs the VELscope®
frequency of blue light. Healthy areas beneath the surface of the soft
tissue show up green, and the problem areas become much darker.
Advantages of using the VELscope® System:
Can be combined with digital photography
Detects lesions, white and red patches
Detects problem areas that cannot be seen under white light
Exposes precancerous and cancerous tissue
Helps dentists check that diseased soft tissue is completely removed
Helps diagnose oral cancer in its earliest stages, exponentially increasing the chance of survival
Quick, painless examinations
How is the VELscope® examination performed?
The VELscope® examination literally takes only about two minutes. It is a painless and noninvasive procedure that saves many lives every single year.
Here is a brief overview of what a VELscope® examination is like:
Initially, Dr. Cheek will perform a regular visual examination of the whole lower face. This includes the glands, tongue, cheeks and palate as well as the teeth. The lights in the room are dimmed to allow a clear view of the oral cavity. The small VELscope projects blue light inside the mouth. Lesions and other indicators of oral cancer are easily noticeable because they appear much darker under the specialized light.
If signs or symptoms are noted, Dr. Cheek may recommend a biopsy to determine whether or not this is oral cancer. The results of the biopsy dictate the best course of action from there. Otherwise, another oral cancer screening is performed in one year’s time.
If you have any questions or concerns about oral cancer screening or the VELscope® system, please contact our office.