Keeping An Eye Out for Oral Cancer

oral cancer | nashua nhAt Kalil & Kress, we’re all about staying up to date on the latest dental technology. We use all digital x-ray machines, even a digital panoramic x-ray for certain full-mouth diagnostics.

And we use the VELscope® Vx Enhanced Oral Assessment system to help us with our all-important oral cancer examinations.

Do I need to worry about oral cancer if I don’t smoke or drink much?

Many people think, wrongly, that if they don’t smoke or drink heavily that oral cancer isn’t something they need to worry about. Truth is 25% of all oral cancers occur in people who don’t smoke and who only drink occasionally. At Kalil & Kress, more and more of our oral cancer patients now are young, healthy, nonsmoking individuals that have the human papilloma virus (HPV). You may have heard of this virus in connection with cervical cancer, but it also greatly increases the risk of oral cancer.

Finding it early is the key

At Kalil & Kress, we believe in prevention before treatment, when possible. The same can be said about oral cancer — think early diagnosis versus later tragedy. When discovered early, the five-year survival rate for oral cancer patients is about 83%. Unfortunately, most oral cancers are discovered in later stages, whether due to patients skipping regular dental exams or lack of proper diagnostic practices during those exams.

What are the symptoms of oral cancer?

These are the most common symptoms of oral cancer:

  • Swellings, lumps, bumps, rough spots/crusts on the lips, gums, or other areas inside the mouth
  • White, red, or speckled patches in the mouth
  • Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
  • A soreness or feeling that something is caught in the back of the throat
  • Numbness, loss of feeling, or pain/tenderness in any area of the face, mouth, neck, or ear
  • Persistent sores on the face, neck, or mouth that bleed easily and don’t heal within two weeks
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, moving the jaw or tongue
  • Hoarseness, chronic sore throat, or change in voice (usually slurred speech)
  • A lump in the neck
  • Dramatic weight loss

Men account for 70% of oral cancers, with men over the age of 50 at a greater risk.

How do you check for oral cancer?

Most practices screen for oral cancer the traditional way by feeling for lumps or irregular tissue changes in the mouth, head, face, and neck. We do this at Kalil & Kress, too. We also look for sores or discolored tissue, and inquire about any of the symptoms we list above. While this method was fairly reliable, we have added a whole new level of diagnostic proficiency with the VELscope® system.

What is VELscope®?

The VELscope® Vx Enhanced Oral Assessment System uses a handheld scope to help visualize oral tissue abnormalities, including cancer and pre-cancer. The VELscope® Vx handheld device emits a harmless, bright blue light that is used to inspect the mouth and tongue. The device is sensitive to abnormal tissue changes and the distinctive blue-spectrum light causes the soft tissue (oral mucosa) of the mouth to naturally fluoresce. Healthy tissue fluoresces in distinct patterns that are visibly disrupted when tissue undergoes abnormal change such as with oral cancer. Often these tissues cannot be seen with the naked eye alone, so the VELscope system gives the team at Kalil & Kress a real leg up in diagnosing oral cancer.

Is it time for your next checkup and cleaning? Call us at 603-880-7004 to make your appointment.

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