Oral Cancer Screening

Early detection is vital

When oral cancer is discovered late, survival rates are as low as 28%; when it’s discovered early, survival rates are as high as 82%.

As the front line in the fight against oral cancer, we use lesion detection equipment specially designed to better detect and diagnose the presence of cancer or pre-cancer as early as possible.

The potential to reveal what’s hidden

Under examination with Sapphire Plus LD, our cancer screening equipment, normal tissue appears green while dysplasia shows up as a dark area, exposing potential suspicious lesions that may not have been apparent under incandescent light.  Dysplastic tissue is the presence of abnormal cells on the surface of the skin. Dysplasia is not cancer, but it is a tissue change seen prior to malignancy. Our special equipment detects these skin changes in their early stages, when treatment for oral cancer has the best chance for long term success.

HPV linked to oral cancer

The human papilloma virus (HPV) has been linked to oral cancer cases in young, non-smoking individuals with low levels of alcohol consumption.  Between 12,000 and 15,000 new cases of oropharyngeal cancer are diagnosed each year, and about 3,000 people die from it.  Studies are showing HPV is linked to at least 25 percent of those oral cancer cases when smoking and alcohol are not causative factors.

HPV is one of the most common virus groups in the world to affect the skin and mucosal areas of the body. Over eighty types of HPV have been identified.  The most dangerous HPV’s, 16 and 18, which are transmitted through sexual contact, are known to cause up to 95% of cervical cancers. Now these two HPV’s are also being linked to oral cancer.

Oral cancer itself, however, is not contagious.  The following risk factors can also increase your chances of developing oral cancer.

           Tobacco: Tobacco use accounts for most oral cancers. Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, using chewing tobacco and dipping snuff are all linked to oral cancer. Heavy smokers who use tobacco for a long time are most at risk. The risk is even higher for tobacco users who drink alcohol heavily. In fact, three out of four oral cancers occur in people who use alcohol, tobacco, or both alcohol and tobacco.

            Alcohol: People who drink alcohol are more likely to develop oral cancer than people who don’t drink. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol that a person consumes. The risk increases even more if the person both drinks alcohol and uses tobacco.

           Sun: Cancer of the lip can be caused by exposure to the sun. Using a lotion or lip balm that has a sunscreen can reduce the risk. Wearing a hat with a brim can also block the sun’s harmful rays. The risk of cancer of the lip increases if the person also smokes.

If our exam shows an abnormal area, a small sample of tissue may be removed. Removing tissue to look for cancer cells is called a biopsy which is usually done with local anesthesia. A pathologist then looks at the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells. A biopsy is the only sure way to know if the abnormal area is cancerous.  Our goal is to screen as many patients as possible for oral cancer during routine check ups.  Ask us about this potentially life-saving screening exam.

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