This year over 40,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer. That is a little over 100 new cases EACH DAY in the US. And the rate is increasing. Other names for oral cancer include mouth cancer, tongue cancer, throat cancer, and tonsil cancer.
There are two known pathways leading to oral cancer. This first is tobacco and alcohol use. The other is through exposure to HPV (Human Papillomavirus – HPV16). When oral cancer is detected early, survival rates are good (80-90%). Unfortunately, most oral cancers are not detected until a late stage, which is why the death rate from oral cancer is high (45% five years after diagnosis). In the US, oral cancer kills one person every hour of every day; this is why we believe taking an oral cancer screening test is vital to helping maintain your oral health.
Every time you have a cleaning and check-up at Roswell Complete Dentistry, our dentists and hygienists will do a visual oral cancer screening for you. We strongly recommend an additional screening with VELscope once per year. These oral cancer screenings have the ability to detect early stages of oral cancer before a lesion is visible to our eyes.
Fact: When oral cancer is detected early, the survival rate is 80-90%.
Who is at risk for Oral Cancer?
In the past, oral cancer was believed to be associated mostly with tobacco use. This is no longer the case. In fact, in people younger than 50 years old, HPV is now believed to be the main causative agent. Because the risk factors now include tobacco, alcohol, and/or exposure to HPV-16, nearly every adult in the US is at risk for developing oral cancer. For this reason, we recommend basic oral cancer screenings twice per year, and a specific oral cancer screening with VELscope once every year. This is similar to other cancer screenings like mammogram, PSA-test, and Pap-smear. Like any cancer, it is only through early detection that your chances for survival improve.
Will my insurance cover an oral cancer screening?
Some dental and medical insurance companies DO cover oral cancer screenings. And flex-spending accounts and health savings accounts (FSA and HSA) will reimburse for this procedure.