Oral Cancer Awareness Month
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month and the more we can spread the word about this highly treatable disease, the more people we can help. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, 53,000 people in the U.S. will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer in 2019. That figure amounts to 132 new oral cancer cases diagnosed each day, and 1 person dying from oral cancer on the hour, every single day.* There are several factors, such as alcohol and smoking, and viruses like HPV—the same virus that has been linked to cervical cancer in women—that contribute to these figures. While HPV is often discussed in relationship to women’s health, it is actually found in both men and woman, causing oral cancers regardless of gender.
Dr. Anya Wolfe, a Smile Generation-trusted dentist with Dentists of Hanover notes, “As a healthcare provider, it is our goal to detect these cancers before they are deadly—and when detected early and treated properly with follow-up care, approximately 80-90% of all oral cancers are survivable. A trip to the dentist is therefore not only necessary to check for cavities and gum disease, but also to make sure you do not have signs of oral cancer. This would include looking at all tissues very carefully and palpating certain areas of your head and neck during a routine exam."
“On a personal note, I have found numerous lesions on patients beginning in dental school. These findings lead to biopsy, follow-up procedures and monitoring that ultimately saved the patient from more aggressive surgery and arguably was lifesaving! It is also important to educate each patient. I always encourage my patients to be their own health care advocate. If you feel like something “feels off” or you notice a new lump, bump, lesion, or pain in your mouth, do not ignore your instinct and have your dentist look. Your health is paramount.”
Early Detection with VELscope Oral Screening
Smile Generation-Trusted Dentist, Dr. Ashley Elizondo, owner of Pearland Dentists and Pearland Modern Dentistry & Orthodontics in Pearland, TX, shared how she and her team successfully utilize VELscope screenings as an adjunct to the traditional head and neck exam. "It is our standard of care as a diagnostic tool. We screen all new patients and we screen returning patients at least once a year. For patients who are high risk, such as tobacco users, we recommend screenings every six months. A few years ago, I had a patient who had a lesion I could see during the traditional head and neck exam, but after using the VELscope, I learned she had 2 lesions. The patient was referred to a specialist; the lesions were both due to HPV and fortunately were not malignant. This was an "ah-ha" moment for us. Over the years, we've referred multiple patients for further evaluation. The pictures we take with VELscope allow for better communication with our specialist and provides us with an added advantage to better assess our patients before referring. It is such a valuable screening tool because it allows us to see things not visible during a traditional head and neck exam which allows us to provide a more comprehensive exam and help create happier, healthier patients."