Cancer isn’t something anyone likes to think about. The truth is that when cancer is detected early, most people will survive. But this is sometimes easier said than done. Symptoms of cancer very often don’t show up until the condition is advanced. Therefore, methods of early detection are very valuable to healthcare professionals; they can make a world of difference in treating the condition.
At StarBrite Dental, we have invested in our ability to detect oral cancers in their earliest stages, using a remarkable machine called a VELscope. We recommend a screening for oral cancer once a year. It takes only minutes and is completely non-invasive.
Your Annual Oral Cancer Screening
As part of one of your cleanings and exams, your dentist or hygienist will examine your mouth carefully using the VELscope. This is a handheld device which gives off a bright blue light that actually penetrates the tissue. All healthy tissue will give off a neon, apple-green glow. Darker areas of tissue deserve a closer look. A few cells are taken from any suspicious area for further diagnosis.
If there is a problem with this tissue—either cancer or some other abnormality—you’ll be alerted early, when dealing with it is far easier and faster. In most cases, abnormalities are harmless.
The reason it is very hard to detect oral cancers is that there’s no pain or lesion until oral cancer is fairly advanced. And while diagnosis unaided and without the use of a tool like the VELscope can be done, the advantage to the VELscope is that it simply makes it easier to diagnosis abnormalities with speed and accuracy. We consider it our job not only to empower you to treat oral cancer at the first possible moment, but also to give you peace of mind when an examination shows no cancer present—which is always the vast majority of the time!
Reducing Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
It’s probably no surprise to you that tobacco use increases your risk of oral cancer. Your best choice is to cease using any tobacco products. Excessive use of alcohol (more than 15 drinks a week) is another risk factor — and if you combine these two risk factors, your chances of developing oral cancer go even higher. Of course, recreational drug use also increases your risk.
In some Asian cultures, people have made a habit of chewing betel nuts or smoking small, leaf-wrapped cigarettes called bidis. Both these practices greatly increase the chance of oral cancers.
If you have been extensively exposed to asbestos, printing processes or formaldehyde, you have an increased chance of oral cancers. Additionally, there’s a type of sexually transmitted disease — human papillomavirus — that is associated with oral cancers as well as cervical cancer. If you’ve received this diagnoses, you have an increased risk of oral cancer.
How to Think About Your Cancer Risk
While the truth is that the chance of someone ever being diagnosed with oral cancer is minute- roughly 1 in 100,000, because of the nature of cancer your chances of mortality skyrocket if there is late diagnosis and it isn’t caught early. This is the nature of any cancer—not just oral cancer.
But put against the proper background of routine cleanings and oral cancer screening, while also reducing Oral Cancer risk factors in one’s life, and the fact that the other 99,999 usually go along with their regular lives without thinking much about it- it is something you simply check for and don’t worry about.
So how does one think about oral cancer?
We don’t believe in scare tactics. We don’t believe in going through life worried about all the things that “might go wrong.” We do believe in being responsible. This is why we’ve made oral cancer screenings just part of our routine dental care. As long as we’re cleaning your teeth, as long as we’re looking in your mouth…let’s just be vigilant.
We don’t have to be worried. We don’t have to be negative. Let’s just be responsible. We have means of detecting oral cancer early—why not use them?
If this sounds like your philosophy of health, we’d like to offer a Free Dental Consultation – schedule yours by calling (301) 377-2186 . We treat patients from all over the Washington, D.C. area.
Call us today. We’re interested in helping you live a long, happy and healthy life.