When it comes to the topic of oral cancer, pediatric patients are rarely mentioned. However, at the Pediatric Dental Center, Dr. Michelle Kelman and our whole team believe an oral cancer screening is a part of your child’s exam at every cleaning. With so many ways to prevent tragedy through early detection, a routine visit to your pediatric dentist or at recalls with your pediatric dental hygienist could literally save your child’s life.
How can our pediatric dental clinicians identify oral cancer? Oral cancer can be identified through abnormalities in your child’s mouth, tongue, tonsils and oropharynx, gums, the floor of the mouth, lips and other parts of the mouth.
In addition to your child’s head and neck exam, we also use the VELscope® system.
VELscope® is a handheld, blue light-based cancer-screening device used in adjunction with an oral exam used to find visually ambiguous abnormalities. As the light shines in the patient’s mouth, different fluorescent signatures will identify healthy and non-healthy tissue. It can also find bacterial and fungal infections, inflamed tissue, salivary gland tumors, cancerous and pre-cancerous signs, and symptoms of HPV.
Since its 2006 launch, minimally invasive VELscope® “is the first technology to be approved by the FDA to help clinicians detect cancerous and pre-cancerous lesions that might not be apparent to the naked eye.” VELscope® is not a diagnostic device – only a surgical biopsy can confirm or deny cancer – but it does provide peace of mind and alert to potentially dangerous factors that contribute to oral cancer.
Vaping: With the rise in number of pre-teens and teens vaping, there are great concerns in teens and oral cancer. Researchers say vaping could lead to an increased risk of developing cancer in the mouth. A study carried out by the American Chemical Society found evidence to suggest using e-cigarettes raises the level of DNA-damaging compounds in the mouth.
HPV: The American Cancer Society has mentioned “a recent rise in cases of oropharyngeal cancer linked to infection with human papilloma virus (HPV) in white men and women.” According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, “Close to 43,250 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 8,000 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. Of those 43,250 newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years.” Also, relatively young people run the risk of contracting HPV-16, and that “oral cancer will only become a bigger concern for both patients and dental practices over time.”