Many tens of thousands of Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer each year, and oral cancer is the sixth most common form of cancer in the United States. When detected in its early stages, it is highly treatable, but unfortunately, some cases aren’t diagnosed until they’ve reached an advanced stage. Because it’s so important to catch oral cancer early, Dr. Pamela Marzban is pleased to offer advanced screening options to her Fairfax patients using the latest VELscope technology.

What is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer is any kind of cancer that forms in the mouth or throat. Although cancer can appear anywhere in the oral cavity, most cancers start on the tongue or in the floor of the mouth. The death rate associated with oral cancer is very high compared with other kinds of cancer because it usually isn’t discovered until very late in its progression. But if caught early during a dental exam or other medical exam, oral cancer is very treatable.

Risk Factors for Oral Cancer

Although oral cancer can affect anyone, it’s more likely in those who:

  • Are male
  • Are older than age 40
  • Use tobacco or alcohol
  • Have a history of head or neck cancer
  • Have a family history of cancer

Cancer of the lip is also more common in those who are frequently exposed to the sun.

Does Oral Cancer present any Symptoms?

Many kinds of oral cancer don’t present any symptoms until they have reached an advanced stage, which is why it’s so important to have your dentist screen for oral cancer. Some symptoms that may indicate presence of oral cancer include:

  • Bleeding in the mouth
  • White or red patches in the mouth
  • An oral sore that doesn’t heal within two weeks
  • A lump in or thickening of the cheek
  • Oral pain or difficulty swallowing
  • One or more loose teeth
  • Earaches
  • A lump in the neck

Your dentist may identify these symptoms as part of a routine exam, but they’re often missed. Other symptoms you may dismiss as belonging to other conditions.

Why Oral Cancer Isn’t Improving Like Other Cancers

We have made great strides in treating many types of cancer. But oral cancer hasn’t seen the same level of improvement. That’s because of two main factors. First, the rate of oral cancers is increasing, unlike other cancers, which are falling. Second, people newly diagnosed with oral cancer don’t have the same risk factors as previous generations. People without risk factors are less likely to get screening. That means their cancer is more likely to be at a later stage at diagnosis.

Oral cancer screening for everyone can help us overcome these challenges. Then we can turn the corner on oral cancer as we have for other types.

VELscope and Your Oral Cancer Screening

VELscope is a very effective advanced dental technology that helps dentists diagnose many kinds of oral abnormalities, including cancer. Using the handheld VELscope device, a dentist illuminates the oral cavity with a special kind of blue light. While healthy tissue appears as a bright green glow, potentially cancerous tissue appears dark. This allows Dr. Marzban to identify suspicious regions at a much earlier stage than is possible with simple visual and manual examination. VELscope screenings are noninvasive and can be completed in just a few minutes.

With the latest in lifesaving dental technology, we can detect oral cancer earlier than ever before. To schedule your next dental cleaning and exam, please contact Fairfax dentist Dr. Pamela Marzban today, or call 703-323-8200.