An oral cancer exam is important and should be a part of your regular dental exam. Early detection of oral cancer is key to providing an optimal treatment. According to the National Cancer Institute, the percent of patients surviving 5 years is 64.8% (https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/oralcav.html). This percentage may significantly increase with early detection. An oral cancer exam should be a part of your regular dental check ups and done at least once every 6 months, or sooner if the patient is at high risk or had a previous suspicious area. Risk factors include alcohol usage, especially in synergy with tobacco, and betel nuts. Betel nuts are more commonly chewed in Asian countries, similar to the use of chewing tobacco in the States. Other risk factors include constant [accidental] biting of the cheek and or side of the tongue due to poor fitting dentures or missing teeth.
If there is a change in the tissue, such as redness or a white spot that does not wipe away, it is important to reassess these areas no more than 15 days later. The dentist will request a two-week re-evaluation appointment to see if it’s healed. The dentist may also suggest a microscopic biopsy of the area. The biopsy will be examined for the presence of irreversible uncontrolled changes in the tissue cells, which may suggest the presence of oral cancer.
In addition to visual examination, there are additional important diagnostic tools available to help identify oral cancers. Vizilite® Plus fluorescence technology is used to identify abnormal precancerous and cancerous cells. The patient simply rinses with a special dye. Then when visualized under a specific light, precancerous and cancerous cells will stain darker as in the photo below. This technology is quick, pain-free and very easy to do.
It never hurts to get a second opinion! We incorporate Vizilite screening in our office. Oral cancers can be easily treated—when caught early. Feel free to call Dr. Huang, a dual-board certified prosthodontist at 703-532-7586, for your second opinion. You will sleep better at night.