Health Watch - Oral Cancer

Oral cancer kills one person every hour in the United States. Your best defense is regular screening. It’s especially important now since oral cancer is showing up in young women who've never used tobacco.

Oral cancer is sometimes tough to detect. It often remains hidden until the late stages when there's only a 52 percent chance for survival. But there's now a new tool that's literally shedding the light on this disease. All it takes is a trip to the dentist.

Alright Miss Wilkins What I'm going to do now is check your mouth.”

This isn't exactly what you expect when you go to the dentist. But it's becoming routine in one local dentist office. While most hygienist do an oral cancer check during a routine cleaning, this new tool is helping them see potential problems in a new light.

Tabitha Hampton, Dental Hygienist. Says it's called a Velscope.

“I can view the mouth all day long and there are spots that I miss. The Velscope illuminates stuff that I can't see with the naked eye."

The Velscope was developed by the Cancer Institute in Canada in association with M.D. Anderson in Texas.

Dr. Herbert Salisbury of the Panama City Dental Center says “They developed this fluorescent light that you shine on the tissue of the gums and cheeks and things and it will fluoresce a certain color. When the tissues change or when they turn into cancer or do something different they lose their ability to fluoresce so it becomes a dark spot."

Oral cancer is one of the most deadly--mainly because it's not usually detected until the late stages.

“They have a bump or lesion but they don't think anything about it. They may come to the dentist office and it's too late. Squamous cell is very aggressive."

Most of us associate oral cancer with someone who smokes or uses smokeless tobacco, that's not the case anymore.

“All through education for the last 30 years now, it's always the high risk factors are smoking, drinking and poor oral hygiene, in other words they don't take good care of their mouth.. and they're over 40 male.”
“recently ladies in their later 30's now are starting to see oral cancers in them and they don't smoke and the don't drink and the take very good care of their mouth. So where is it coming from?" It seems to be linked to the human Pamplona virus.”

Dr. Salisbury 's message is, how you care for you mouth can affect your entire body and regular dental visits could save your life.

Have routine dental visits every 6 months, go to the dentist have the oral screenings. If caught early it's pretty curable. We're talking 80% survival.


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