Latest oral cancer screening available in Tahoe |

Latest oral cancer screening available in Tahoe

Dr. David F. Andrews
Special to the Sun

TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; Approximately 37,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year in the United States. Because a large number of those will be diagnosed as a late stage cancer (66 percent), only 43 percent of those will survive five years, which is why early detection is so important. When oral cancer is diagnosed early, the survival rate is 80 to 90 percent, but when found in the later stages the survival rates drops to 20 to 30 percent.

In the U.S., someone dies of oral cancer every hour of every day. Approximately 100 individuals will be diagnosed with oral cancer in the U.S. every day of the year. The death rate is higher than for more widely known cancers such as skin cancer, lymphatic cancer, thyroid and cervical cancer.

The most prevalent risk factor for oral cancer is tobacco use in any form whether smoking cigarettes, pipes or cigars or chewing tobacco. The risk is increased with tobacco use and the heavy consumption of alcohol. Another risk factor is prolonged exposure to the sun causing lip cancer.

Historically, oral cancer has been mostly likely to occur after the age of 50. Now however, the fastest growing population to be diagnosed with oral cancer is 25 to 50 year olds. According to cancer research centers this age group is contracting oral cancer for a totally different reason than tobacco use. Oral cancer in this group is increasing from exposure to the human papillomavirus called HPV, the same virus responsible for most cervical cancers.

Previously the only way for dental professionals to check for abnormal oral lesions was to perform a visual and palpating check of the tissues of the mouth. But now with the aid of new technology called a VELscope dentists and dental hygienists are being assisted greatly in their ability to screen for oral cancer. This new device shines a bright blue light on the oral soft tissues of the mouth to reveal abnormalities which otherwise could not be seen with the naked eye alone. An oral cancer screening along with the VELscope can reduce the death rate from this disease and give peace of mind.

The University of Washington in their research with 620 patients found 69 patients with abnormalities that could not be detected by sight or palpitation. Therefore, it has been shown to allow early detection of lesions.

In our office in the few weeks we have been utilizing the VELscope we have found several abnormalities that would have gone undetected without it.

For further information about oral cancer, go to The National Cancer Institute, and/or the Oral Cancer Foundation,

and#8212; Dr. David F. Andrews may be reached at 530-546-3363, 215 Carnelian Bay Ave., Carnelian Bay, CA 96140

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