Oral Disease and Cancer Overview
According to the American Cancer Society an estimated 40,250 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2012, and an estimated 7,850 people will die of the disease in 2012. The difference between early and late detection of oral cancer can be the difference between life and death.
- Oral cancer is most often discovered in late stages, when the 5-year survival rate is only around 30 percent;
- When discovered early, however, the survival rate leaps to about 82 percent. (1)
New technology referred to as VELscope – has been developed and tested during the last decade – to help dental professionals with early detection. Farmington Dental Group recommends patients receive a screening every 6 months in conjunction with a cleaning and exam.
How VELscope Works*
The VELscope’s blue light “excites” molecules (called “fluorophores”) deep within the layers of oral mucosal tissues. In turn, those fluorophores emit their own light (fluorescence), in shades of green, yellow and red. The VELscope’s proprietary filter makes fluorescence visualization possible, by blocking reflected blue light, and by enhancing the contrast between normal and abnormal tissue. In just two minutes, with no rinses, stains or discomfort, a VELscope examination lets healthcare professionals improve their assessment of your overall oral health. VELscope is recognized by the World Health Organization.
- Although the use of tobacco and alcohol are risk factors in developing oral cancer, approximately 25% of oral cancer patients have no known risk factors. (2, 3)
- There has been a nearly five-fold increase in incidence in oral cancer patients under age 40, many with no known risk factors. (4, 5, 6, 7)
- The incidence of oral cancer in women has increased significantly, largely due to an increase in women smoking. In 1950 the male to female ratio was 6:1; by 2002, it was 2:1.
Prevention and Detection**
- The best way to prevent oral cancer is to avoid tobacco and alcohol use.
- Regular dental check-ups, including an examination of the entire mouth, are essential in the early detection of cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions.
- Many types of abnormal cells can develop in the oral cavity in the form of red or white spots. Some are harmless and benign, some are cancerous and others are pre-cancerous, meaning they can develop into cancer if not detected early and removed. (American Cancer Society)
- Finding and removing epithelial dysplasias before they become cancer can be one of the most effective methods for reducing the incidence of cancer.
- Knowing the risk factors and seeing your dentist for oral cancer screenings can help prevent this deadly disease. (8)
- Oral cancer is often preceded by the presence of clinically identifiable premalignant changes. These lesions may present as either white or red patches or spots. Identifying white and red spots that show dysplasia and removing them before they become cancer is an effective method for reducing the incidence and mortality of cancer.
- National Cancer Institute’s SEER Database, 1999-2006
- Schantz SP, Yu GP. Head and neck cancer incidence trends in young Americans, 1973-1997, with a special analysis for tongue cancer. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Mar 2002;128(3):268-274.
- Lingen M, Sturgis EM, Kies MS. Squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck in nonsmokers: clinical and biologic characteristics and implications for management. Curr Opin Oncol. May 2001;13(3):176-182.
- Shiboski CH, Shiboski SC, Silverman S, Jr. Trends in oral cancer rates in the United States, 1973-1996. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol. Aug 2000;28(4):249-25.
- Llewellyn CD, Johnson NW, Warnakulasuriya KA. Risk factors for squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity in young people–a comprehensive literature review. Oral Oncol. Jul 2001;37(5):401-418.
- Corcoran TP, Whiston DA. Oral cancer in young adults. J Am Dent Assoc. Jun 2000;131(6):726.
- Dahlstrom, K. R et al. Squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck in never smoker-never drinkers: A descriptive epidemiologic study. Head Neck 2007.
- American Cancer Society (“In the United States, the cervical cancer death rate declined by 74% between 1955 and 1992, in large part due to the effectiveness of Pap smear screening.”) web facts.
* Information provided by VELscope. For additional information on the technology visit www.velscope.com.
** Information compiled by the American Dental Association. For additional information visit www.ada.org.