Oral Cancer Screening
Oral cancer screening – a routine examination at The Forum
As a state of the art dental surgery, at The Forum we are proud of the fact when new technology is available for improved dental health care, we like to make it available as soon as possible to our patients.
So when we heard about the VELscope in 2009 it wasn’t long before one was being used routinely at The Forum.
The article below by Dr Keith Jackson of The Forum underlines the importance of this new technology, some of the facts about oral cancer, and how to help reduce the risks of developing it.
1400 people die every year from oral cancer. Of all patients that develop oral cancer, two-thirds will die from the disease. This is a shocking statistic from a condition that can be diagnosed at an early stage and as with all cancers, the earlier the detection the greater the chance of survival.
There are two ways to markedly reduce the death rate from oral cancer. Firstly we can reduce the incidence of the disease by dealing with factors that we know increase the risks. Research has shown that there are three main risk factors which dramatically increase the risks of developing oral cancer. The first two are smoking and heavy alcohol consumption which in combination increase the risks of developing oral cancer by a factor of 100 for women and 38 for men. The other factor is the chewing of chewing tobacco or betel quid that is common in certain cultures.
As mentioned earlier we can also reduce the death rate by early detection of the disease. This involves increasing awareness amongst the general public and a more effective use of healthcare professionals. Often the earliest indication of a cancerous lesion in the mouth is the presence of an ulcer that fails to heal within a three-week period. All patients must have any non-healing ulcer investigated to exclude the possibility of it being cancerous.
The dental profession is well placed and well trained to detect oral cancer. Any non-healing ulcer, or suspicious area, should be seen by a dentist with a degree of urgency.
At regular examinations, your dentist will inspect not just your teeth but also the lining of your palate, tongue and cheeks to check for suspicious areas. Certain red or white patches can in a small percentage of cases develop into cancer and would therefore be regularly monitored. At The Forum, these areas would be photographed and stored on the patients’ notes – which allows us to see whether any changes have occurred over time.
Very recently, new technology has become available which can detect very early cancer that would be undetectable to the human eye. The VELscope uses tissue-fluorescence to indicate potential areas of abnormality, a technique which has been successfully used to detect early cervical cancer. A fluorescent light is shone on to the tongue,palate and cheeks with normal skin appearing green. Any abnormal areas appear dark and would therefore require further investigation. The Velscope is routinely used at The Forum and has been well-received by patients who feel comforted by our increased efforts to detect oral cancer at the earliest opportunity.
Dr Keith Jackson