Claudia isn't what's considered your typical candidate for oral cancer.
She's young, healthy, doesn't smoke or use smokeless tobacco.
But she is among the fastest growing group of oral cancer patients.
Local dentist Dr. Herb Salisbury says, "When I was in school they would show these pictures of old men you know all locked up dirty teeth, all three of them.. smoking, drinking. That's who you'd look for oral cancer. Now a beautiful young lady that takes good care of yourself doesn't drink too much, doesn't smoke, healthy, now I have to suspect even you."
Left undetected, oral cancer can be fatal.
"If you come in my office and we're doing an examination and I look in your mouth and I see something suspicious with my naked eye and it turns out to be cancer, there's an 80% chance unfortunately that you're going to be dead inside of six months," says Dr. Salisbury.
Oral Cancer kills one American every hour of every day in the United States.
The reason is, oral cancer is so hard to detect with just the naked eye.
The velscope is helping to change that.
This new diagnostic devise has the ability to detect suspicious tissue.
The velscope projects fluorescent light onto gum and cheek tissue.
Cancerous tissue shows up as a dark spot.
Dr. Salisbury says "If I shine this light in your mouth it will show me where suspicious areas are... if it is that then you have a 90 to 95% chance of survival and that's a big difference."
"About 2 minutes I've seen every place I need to look to ensure you do not have any cancers or abnormalities."
Dr. Salisbury says there is evidence increases in oral cancer cases are caused by human papilloma virus, which causes cancer of the cervix.
For that reason experts are now recommending female patients 18 and older receive annual screenings.
Dr. Salisbury says many patients are adding the velscope to their regular yearly dental checkup.
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