Just hearing the words, “oral cancer” is scary. As frightening as it is, most of the time, if it is diagnosed in its early stages it is treatable. The sooner any form of cancer is diagnosed in your body, the more likely of having a positive outcome.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer is cancer that occurs in or around the oral cavity. This includes the lips, cheek, tongue, and even the bottom of your mouth. It can also be in the throat, sinuses, or plates (both hard and soft). If left undiagnosed they can be extremely dangerous. This is why routine dental visits to your Saginaw dentist where we regularly screen for oral cancer are so important. The diagnosis is the first step in implementing an effective treatment plan.
How does a VELscope screening help?
At the dental office of Jennifer Schau DDS, we use the VELscope enhanced oral assessment system to help detect oral cancer. This innovative device is a safe way to find oral cancer that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Being able to discover cancer earlier using VELscope equipment assists Dr. Schau in providing an official diagnosis and in developing a treatment plan.
What happens during an oral cancer screening with a VELscope?
Patients 16 and older can be scanned using a VELscope device. It is done during a regular visit most of the time. It is a painless way to check for oral cancer. The device emits a blue light that causes abnormalities in the mouth to show up. Tissue fluorescence visualization is the term for using blue light to cause abnormalities in the tissue more apparent.
The dentist performs a visual exam of the mouth and face. They will check the glands, cheeks, palate, tongue, and teeth. Then, the lights will be dimmed and you will be given special eyewear to protect your eyes. The VELscope bends and reaches to project the blue light into the mouth. Any lesions or other indicators of the presence of oral cancer become noticeable as they look a lot darker in the specialized light.
Are there any advantages to using VELscope technology?
There are numerous advantages to using VELscope. These include:
- Can combine it with digital photography
- Detects white and red patches as well as lesions
- Detects problems not seen under white lights
- Exposes both precancerous and cancerous cells
- Approved by the FDHelps dentists check if the soft tissue was completely removed
Are there any common symptoms of oral cancer?
Tobacco use is the one habit that greatly increases the risk of developing oral cancer. Not one type of tobacco is safe. Smoking pipes, cigarettes, or cigars can lead to oral cancer. So can chewing tobacco. But there are some other risk factors too, including:
- A weakened immune system
- Family genetics and history
- Previous diagnosis of oral cancer
- Facial sun exposure
- Heavy use of alcohol
There are also a few symptoms that are often noticed in the early stages of oral cancer. These symptoms include:
- Sores in the mouth that do not heal
- Loose teeth
- Unexplained bleeding
- Persistent sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Growths in your mouth
- Red or white patches in your mouth or on your gums
- Pain in the ear, jaw, or tongue
If you notice any sudden changes in your mouth, don’t wait. Schedule a visit with our dental offices. Dr. Schua can often find oral cancer in a routine exam, but the VELscope can detect its presence even before it is noticeable.
If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Jennifer Schua or her team. If you notice any changes in your mouth or gums, please schedule a visit for an oral cancer screening.