According to the Canadian Cancer Society, approximately 5,400 Canadians were diagnosed with oral cancers affecting the lips, tongue and floor of the mouth. Approximately 1,500 Canadians died from oral cancer in 2020.
Early detection of oral cancer is essential to effective treatment. When oral cancers are not detected until they have spread beyond the oral cavity, the five-year survival rates are just 48% (for lip cancers), 63% (for tongue cancers) and 38% (for cancers affecting the floor of your mouth). On the other hand, early detection through VELscope screening in Silverado can improve those five-year survival rates to an astounding extent. When oral cancer is detected before it has spread, those survival rights increase to 93% (for lip cancers), 78% (for tongue cancers) and 75% (for cancers affecting the floor of your mouth).
What happens during oral cancer screening?
Oral cancer screening may include three elements: a physical examination; an assessment of risk factors; and handheld scanning with a device like the VELscope system in Silverado.
Part one: A physical examination
Your dentist in Silverado will physically examine your face, throat, mouth, neck and head for any symptoms of oral cancer or signs of abnormal cells which may indicate the presence of oral cancer. Over the course of a non-invasive, painless and just minutes-long examination, your dentist will look for:
● Any lumps or bumps in the soft tissues of your face, throat, mouth, neck and head
● Any swollen or hardened areas in the lymph nodes in your throat
● Any discolouration affecting the soft tissues inside your mouth (tongue, lips, cheeks, floor of mouth, roof of mouth and throat)
● Changes to the texture of the soft tissues in your mouth compared to prior examinations
● Any indication of a sore throat or newly hoarse voice is not otherwise explained.
Part two: Assessing your risk factors
While research into specific causes of various factors, including oral cancers, is ongoing, several risk factors associated with an increased risk of developing the potentially fatal disease include:
● Smoking and chewing tobacco
● Excessive alcohol consumption
● A family history of oral cancer
● The human papillomavirus
● Excessive exposure to sunlight and other UV radiation (cancer affecting the lips specifically)
Your dentist will ensure that they have a complete and comprehensive medical history from you that includes any relevant information about those risk factors. That information will inform their physical examination and influence how they respond to any potential signs of abnormal cells. Remember that many of the symptoms of oral cancer are common with symptoms of less concerning conditions. Symptoms of oral cancer combined with the presence of significant risk factors, though, may suggest that further examinations are urgently required.
Part three: VELscope screening
VELscope screenings in Calgary use a handheld device that shines a blue light into your mouth. That special blue light excites the epithelial tissues and stroma in your mouth. When abnormal cells in those tissues become excited, they appear very dark to the naked eye. Those very dark and potentially abnormal cells contrast with the appearance of healthy tissue under that blue light, which glows brightly. Under fluorescent light, those distinctions between healthy and abnormal cells can’t be seen. In just minutes in a slightly darkened room and via a completely painless and non-invasive process, your dentist will be able to identify the presence of potentially abnormal cells that may indicate the presence of oral cancers warranting urgent investigation and early treatment.
If you have not attended dental checkups regularly, you are putting more than your dental health at risk. You’re also missing an ideal opportunity to undergo VELscope screening near you. To get back on track with your dental health and ensure you’re regularly screened for oral cancer, set up an appointment with a dentist near you right away.