Advanced screening tool boosts early detection, cure rate for HPV-induced oral cancers
By Claudia Cortadi, DDS
In recent years, a combination of media coverage, medical advancements and reinvigorated screening procedures have helped raise public awareness of the human papillomavirus (HPV), an incredibly common sexually-transmitted disease that is also a known contributor to the development of cervical cancer. Armed with the Gardasil HPV vaccine and HPV-specific detection test, doctors have since increased their ability to prevent and detect cancer-causing strains of the virus. However, medical research now points to another, growing danger for those exposed to HPV in the form of certain oral cancers – and in order to avoid the potentially fatal flaw of late detection, more and more dentists are investing in advanced screening tools to help catch pre-cancerous developments as quickly as possible.
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, individuals exposed to certain strains of HPV via oral sex (particularly HPV 16, one of the chief cancer-causing strains of the common virus) are at risk for a subset of oral cancers that can affect the inside of the lip, mouth, base of the tongue or throat. Because such cancers can be difficult to detect early on without vigilant attention from patients and doctors alike (and because many HPV-affected patients are otherwise healthy young men and women without lifestyle-related predispositions to cancer), it is critical that dentists incorporate oral cancer screenings into routine exams – and seize the opportunity to use new technology whenever possible to aid the process.
New technology makes screening quick and thorough for optimal preventative care
Most dentists perform a simple visual and tactile oral cancer screening during patient exams to check for existing signs of cancer. These signs may include persistent sores or lesions, thickening of soft tissue, red or white patches in the mouth or a lump in the neck (while other symptoms – such as a sensation of something caught in the throat, ear pain, jaw pain or swelling, difficulty chewing or swelling and numbness – should be addressed by the patient and referred to a doctor or dentist for testing). If a dentist sees anything suspicious, he or she will implement further tests. However, because oral cancer treatment is most effective at the earliest – and often, invisible — stage of the disease, a dentist’s ability to locate pre-cancerous tissue is the best way to help patients make a quick, full and effective recovery.
At Ablantis Dental, we’re proud to be at the forefront of preventative technology; and by using the non-invasive Velscope to visualize abnormalities in the lips, mouth and throat during examinations, we strive to keep ahead of the curve when it comes to early cancer detection and treatment. The Velscope uses a blue light to “excite” molecules deep within the oral tissues, and creates a color contrast between normal and abnormal tissue to determine overall oral health. Free of dyes and rinses, and completed in only 1-2 minutes, the Velscope process makes oral cancer screening easy and accessible for all our patients – and ensures the best in preventative healthcare for individuals throughout San Diego County. To learn more or set up an appointment, call us at (858) 259-8400. www.ablantisdental.com.
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