The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa and gingiva) that is smooth and coral pink in color. Any alteration in this appearance could be a warning sign for a pathological process. The most serious of these is oral cancer.
The following can be signs at the beginning of a pathologic process or cancerous growth:
- Reddish patches (erythroplakia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth.
- A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily.
- A lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth.
- Chronic sore throat or hoarseness.
- Difficulty in chewing or swallowing.
These changes can be detected on the lips, cheeks, palate, and gum tissue around the teeth, tongue, face, and/or neck. Pain does not always occur with pathology and, curiously, is not often associated with oral cancer. However, any patient with facial and/or oral pain without an obvious cause or reason may also be at risk for oral cancer. We would recommend performing an oral cancer self-examination monthly and remember that your mouth is one of your body’s most important warning systems. Do not ignore suspicious lumps or sores. Please contact us so we may help.
Velscope: Fluorecense scanning for early oral cancer detection
Velscope is a direct florescence visualization tool that is simple and non-invasive. We can now use this device to detect a potentially pre-cancerous lesion in the earliest stages. The Velscope is held at the entrance of the oral cavity and emits a blue light into the mouth. A peek through the lens shows a fluorescent green appearance, this means healthy tissues. Any presence of pre-cancerous or cancerous tissue does not glow fluorescent green; instead, it absorbs the light and appears black. There are several different layers in the oral tissues the potential lesion must penetrate or spread through as oral cancer develops. The Velscope can pick up early changes, which can lead to early detection and increased treatment success and outcomes.
Oral cancer is no longer mainly associated with the stereotypical drinking, smoking males over 40. Its affecting more women, more non-smokers and non-drinkers. People should get checked for oral cancer by their dentist once a year, or if signs like a sore, or red or white spot(s) persists for more than two to three weeks.
When a pre-cancerous or cancer lesion is identified by the Veloscope, the borders are more clearly seen than with the naked eye. Traditionally, a surgeon would remove a lesion plus the surrounding healthy tissue to remove the cancer as completely as possible. Now with the Veloscope, a more precise border is determined to ensure adequate tissue removal and reducing the chance of the cancer returning.
Dentists still conduct a visual examination with palpation of the lymph nodes, and other intra/extra oral structures. This screening device gives us another advantage in the maintenance and prevention of oral cancer. The technology for the Velscope was developed by scientists at the British Columbia Cancer Agency, and is now being used all over the world.