Check Out VELscope!
Oral cancer screening is routinely performed by dentists during regular dental visits. In addition to a manual evaluation, some dentists also use a screening device called a VELscope®. This painless, non-invasive tool can be used to see potentially harmful abnormalities in the tissue of your mouth that your dentist can’t spot. The result? Detecting oral cancers that otherwise might not be found.
The Oral Cancer Problem
Nearly 35,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer every year. Early detection can result in an 80 to 90 percent recovery rate. One of the biggest challenges is finding an effective way to detect oral cancer early on. That’s where your dentist comes in. In addition to checking for cavities, dental plaque or a loose tooth filling, your dentist will examine the entire mouth for signs of cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions. You may have a very small spot or sore in your mouth and not even know it. Suspicious looking areas can be checked out further with a biopsy, which involves the removal of tissue for examination under a microscope. This is the only way to determine whether or not you have oral cancer.
The VELscope Screening Tool
In addition to the manual oral cancer exam, some dentists are now using VELscope. VELscope is an FDA-approved early oral cancer screening detection device. It is not a replacement for the traditional oral exam performed by your dentist, but a tool used in combination. VELscope allows your dentist to see abnormalities in the tissues in your mouth that aren’t visible to the human eye, those below the surface that your dentist can’t see yet.
The dentist begins an oral cancer screening by performing an examination of your neck, lymph glands, cheeks, tongue and lips. The dentist will then use the hand-held VELscope device to check inside your mouth for suspicious-looking tissue. VELscope emits a safe blue light into the oral cavity, which excites the tissue, causing it to fluoresce. Abnormal tissue typically appears as an irregular, dark area that stands out against the otherwise normal, green fluorescence pattern of surrounding healthy tissue.
The VELscope screening takes one or two minutes and does not require any special rinses or stains. Your dentist should give you protective glasses to wear while the VELscope is being used.