Velscope Oral Cancer Screening
What is the Velscope?
The Velscope is a non-invasive oral cancer screening tool that enables us to better visualize abnormal lesions that may not be visible to the naked eye. Its purpose is to aid in early diagnosis of cancerous or pre-cancerous lesions, which is considered to be the most important factor in improving treatment outcomes for these conditions.
How does the Velscope work?
The Velscope's blue light excites natural "fluorophores" in mucosal tissues. In turn, the fluorophores emit their own light — in shades of green, yellow and red. The Velscope's proprietary filter makes fluorescence visualization possible, by blocking reflected blue light, and by enhancing the contrast between normal and abnormal tissue. In other words, the Velscope causes healthy tissue to emit a light greenish glow, whereas unhealthy tissues or areas of increased blood flow emit a darker color.
Why is it so important to be screened for oral cancer?
Close to 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. The death rate for oral cancer is higher than that of many more commonly known cancers, as it is commonly discovered later in the cancer’s development. Often oral cancer is only discovered when the cancer has spread (or metastasized) to another location or presents with a larger, more obvious lesion. Prognosis at this stage of discovery is significantly worse than when it is caught in a localized intra-oral area or, even better, as a pre-cancerous lesion. Oral cancer is particularly dangerous because it is often unnoticeable to the patient, as it can frequently progress without any readily recognizable pain or symptoms and because it has a high risk of recurrence. This means that patients who survive a first encounter with the disease have up to a 20 times higher risk of developing a second cancer. This heightened risk factor can last for 5 to 10 years after the first occurrence. As of 2010, it was estimated that approximately $3.2 billion was spent in the United States annually on treatment of head and neck cancers.