VELscope: Our Standard of Excellence
What is a “VELscope“? :VELscope is a very simple and important part of our patient’s examination. It is an adjunct to the oral cancer screening that is typically conducted at recall exams. It is a non-invasive exam that does not require any special rinses, and it is quick, about two minutes. VELscope uses fluorescence light that illuminates the oral tissues and mucosa to the basement membrane and beyond.
Why have a VELscope exam?: To have the peace of mind that all is fine with the soft tissues in the oral cavity, or to be able to have an abnormality detected, including oral cancer and pre-cancer, much sooner then an examination would reveal with the ambient light alone, allowing earlier diagnosis and more successful treatment outcomes. The difference between early and late detection of oral cancer can be the difference between life and death. Oral cancer is most often discovered in the late states when the five year survival rate is only around 30%. When it is discovered early, however, the survival rate leaps to about 82%.
How does the light work?: VELscope’s blue excitation light is shone into the oral cavity, which excites natural fluorophores from the surface of the epithelium through to the basement membrane (where premalignant changes typically begin) and into the stroma beneath, causing it to fluoresce. Abnormal tissue typically appears as an irregular, dark area that stands out against the green fluorescence pattern of surrounding healthy tissue. The visualization of the technology allows to directly view the oral mucosa much more effectively than can be achieved with the naked eye.
History of the VELscope: This FDA approved technology, which is backed by over $50 million in research funded by the NIH and other respected organizations, has been in place in the medical field for years. The VELscope represents the first oral application of this technology and has had numerous papers and case studies published supporting its ability to help discover oral mucosal abnormalities, including oral cancer and pre-cancer.
Is the VELscope a Diagnostic Tool?
Like other visualization technologies, such as panoramic radiography, CT, MRI, PET and ultrasound, the VELscope is NOT a stand-alone diagnostic test. However, used in conjunction with the standard oral soft tissue exam, VELscope provides visual information that cannot be acquired in any other way.
Does the VELscope Generate "False Positives" for Oral Cancer?
False positives occur when a diagnostic test mistakenly signals the presence of disease. The VELscope system is NOT a diagnostic test, and does not, consequently, generate false positives. As an adjunctive visualization tool, the VELscope helps dental professionals discover a wide range of unhealthy tissue in the mouth, including oral pre-cancer and cancer.
Overall Oral Health
There's a growing trend within general dentistry that stresses the importance of overall oral health – not only health of teeth and gums, but of all the soft tissues in the oral cavity and oropharynx. Growing numbers of clinical practitioners now incorporate routine intra- and extra-oral head and neck exams into their hygiene appointments to screen for dysplasia, oral cancer and a host of other oral diseases.
Approximately 36,540 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx in 2010. During the same time period 7,880 Americans will die of oral cancer.*
Found early, while still Localized (confined to the primary site), oral cancer's five-year survival rate is good: about 83%. Only 33% of all oral cancer discoveries fall into this category.
Found while Regional (progressed to regional lymph nodes) the five-year survival rate drops significantly, to about 55%. Approximately 46% of all oral cancer discoveries are Regional.
Found late, oral cancer's five-year survival rate is poor: approximately 32%. This accounts for approximately 14% of all oral cancer findings.
Clearly, finding oral cancer in its early stages is key to survival. Routine VELscope examinations can improve the morbidity and mortality of oral-cancer, because the VELscope system assists in early detection, potentially saving lives through less invasive, more effective treatment.
HPV — Changing the Demographics of Oral Cancer
An increasing body of evidence points to a strong link between particular strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV, most notably strain 16) and a certain type of oral cancer that occurs in the oropharynx. HPV 16 is the same strain associated with almost all cervical cancer. Many experts now recommend that all adult patients over the age of 18 receive a thorough intra- and extra-oral head and neck exam annually.
For more information on oral cancer, please visit the Oral Cancer Foundation
• As seen on the nationally syndicated ‘The Dr. Oz Show’ and ‘The Doctors’