Nearly 75 percent of oral cancers are not diagnosed until they have reached late-stage (Stage III or IV) oral cancer. According to
the Centers for Disease Control, failing to detect oral cancer in its early stages is the reason deaths from oral cancer are so high. Vital to dramatically improving survival rates for oral cancer is the early detection of abnormalities that can affect the gums, tongue and other mouth tissues by having a dentist specializing in oral cancer visual examine the mouth and use state-of-the-art oral cancer detection devices.
Who Is At Risk For Oral Cancer?
People who smoke cigarettes, chew tobacco, drink alcohol regularly, are age 40+ or have systemic diseases that compromise the ability of the immune system to fight disease are at risk for suffering from oral cancer. In addition, research indicates that having a sexually transmitted disease called HPV (human papilloma virus) accounts for over 15 percent of diagnosed oral cancers. Individuals who have experienced oral cancer in the past are also at risk for suffering another bout with oral cancer.
Signs of Possible Oral Cancer
Signs that a person may have oral cancer include chronic mouth sores, ulcers that do not heal, a constant sore throat or lumpy feeling in the throat and white patches appearing on the tongue, tonsils or gums. It is highly recommended that people who are experiencing problems swallowing or moving their tongue, numbness in or around the mouth or loosening of teeth in the absence of periodontal disease receive an oral cancer screening as soon as possible. A patient’s lymph nodes can also be examined through palpitation to look for evidence of erythroplakias, or reddish areas existing within the mouth that are often found to contain cancer cells following a biopsy.
What Happens When Oral Cancer Remains Undetected
Late-stage oral cancer requires aggressive treatment that generally includes chemo or radiation therapy and surgery to remove tumors and abnormal tissue. When dangerously obtrusive, tumors that are surgically excised may leave the face significantly disfigured. Sometimes lymph nodes may also need removed to ensure all cancer cells have been eradicated.
The Microlux/DL (Diagnostic Light) Oral Cancer Screening Device
The Art of Dentistry has has now incorporated the Microlux/DL system into the oral cancer screening standard of care. Providing the ability to identify suspicious areas in the mouth at their earliest stages, the Microlux/DL Oral system is painless, fast and accurate. Patients simply need to swish a solution around in their mouth for about two minutes, spit it out and then we’ll pass a special light over oral tissues that have absorbed this solution. Healthy tissue appears dark after exposure to the light while abnormal tissue remains white. Once an abnormality is identified, a biopsy may need to be taken of the suspect tissue.
Early stage cancer called “carcinoma in situ” (Stage 0) can be detected by the Microlux/DL before this type of cancer has begun to enter deeper tissue layers. When found, Stage 0 oral cancer can be treated with a minimally invasive technique called surgical stripping. This involves removing the abnormal tissue’s top layer in addition to a small piece of normal tissue.
The Microlux/DL allows us to see tissue abnormalities and even non-cancerous tumors that cannot typically be seen with the unaided eye but may cause problems in the future related to oral health. In fact, the Microlux/DL can potentially save your life or the life of a loved one by detecting cancer before it has advanced too far to be successfully treated. The Microlux/DL exam will be offered to you annually and is recognized and approved by the American Dental Association.