VELscope – a new tool to help us detect mouth cancer
Recently at Dentist Direct we took delivery of a new tool that is proven to help us detect signs of change in tissues of the mouth that could turn into cancer at a very early stage. The process is quick and easy, 100% non-invasive and far more reliable than the naked eye alone.
Head and neck cancer, including oral cancer, cancer of the larynx, and cancer of the pharynx, is the sixth most common type of cancer, with approximately 643,000 worldwide cases reported annually. Here in the UAE a recent study showed that 27 people a week die from smoking related disease and a fair proportion of those will be from head and neck cancers.
Treatment of mouth cancer can be very traumatic to deal with for the patient and their family and often produces major changes in speech, chewing, swallowing and oral health, which in addition to the disease per se, affects the social life and self-esteem of the affected person.
The VELscope technology uses blue light to stimulate the cells lining the oral cavity and that causes them to fluoresce. It is the self-fluorescence of the tissues that allows detection of changes morphology and composition of the tissues in a non-evasive manner. However, this additional examination does not replace the oral examination and biopsy, which remains the golden standard of diagnosis. It can’t tell you if an area is cancerous but what it shows are changes that warrant monitoring and in some cases investigation.
Many of the abnormalities VELscope finds turn out to be nothing to worry about but if we send a few extra people to the oral surgeon, and the biopsy is negative, we feel better than if we missed a cancerous lesion. What disturbs us is if we tell the patients that they are okay, and something is missed because they did not have a biopsy. Early detection of any condition usually means the treatment is more straightforward and has less impact on the patient, with mouth cancer this is very much the case.