According to statistics provided by Las Vegas dentist, Dr. Sarika Anand, DDS, and BDG manager Bridgit Fly, roughly 40,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer each year, and 8,000 will die as a result of oral cancer. The pair revealed these findings on the daily news show, “The Morning Blend.” Early detection is crucial for successful oral cancer treatment because, as Dr. Anand explains in the video clip below, survival rate of patients with early diagnosis is between 80 and 90 percent.
Oral cancer screening alone is reason enough to visit the dentist at least twice a year. Current screening methods include feeling for lumps in your jaw and neck, as well as looking inside your mouth for any sores or tissue discoloration. These methods, however, sometimes don’t catch tumors early enough for them to be easily treated, especially if you don’t make regular dentist visits a priority.
New research being done at the University of Notre Dame’s Harper Cancer Research Institute looks to change this by making early diagnosis easier. The researchers hope that by developing a more reliable and objective diagnostic test, they will enable different oral cancers to be detected in their early stages when treatment is more likely to be successful, thereby saving lives.
If effective, this new screening method will allow dentists to take a small sample of cells from your mouth and use a microfluidic membrane sensor to detect the presence of any cancerous cells. This sensor will be able to examine the RNA of the collected cells, allowing for the detection of any abnormalities long before they can be detected by current diagnostic methods.
Of course for this method to be made widely available, it must be cost-effective, fast, and easy for both the patient and the dentist. While the new screening method being developed at Notre Dame is not quite as accurate as the optical sensors currently in use in many offices, it has the advantage of being much cheaper. The screening costs are much lower, $1 compared to $45, which would make oral cancer screening more accessible, as well as more effective.
Until this technology becomes available, however, dentists are relying on the Velscope. Velscope is a cancer-screening machine that discovers soft tissue abnormalities using a fluorescent blue light. The process is painless and quick – less than three minutes – and although it does result in the occasional false positive, the Velscope is one of the most accurate cancer screening tools on the market.
While the in-office screenings are highly effective, at-home DIY screenings are also extremely important. If you notice any abnormalities present for upwards of two weeks, such as red patches or discolored tissue, notify your dentist immediately. Individuals who smoke tobacco or drink alcohol put themselves at a higher risk for developing oral cancer. If you have either or both of these habits, you may want to consider quitting.
Oral cancer awareness is increasing, but the disease still impacts the lives of thousands of Americans each day. If it’s been over a year since your last oral cancer screening, it may be time for a check up. Boston Dental Group is more than happy to help. Call (702) 388-8888 to schedule yours today!