Living Healthy: Detecting oral and throat cancers

When oral cancer is detected, only about 60-percent of those diagnosed live past five years, but it can usually be treated successfully if it’s found early.

While dentists are highly trained, they can only see so much with the naked eye.

Now some dentists are using a VELscope to detect potential cancer in the mouth.

“When we look through the VELscope there’s a big black area,” Dr. Steven Frimtzis said.

That area turned out to be an abnormal cell growth.

“Through the biopsy and through a pathology report this was actually a carcinoma,” he said.

An oral cancer that may not have been detected and if so may have been too late.

“If we see it with our naked eye it’s already traveled through all the tissue layers so it’s already in somewhat of a late stage, this way we catch it at its absolute earliest stage,” Frimtzis said.

In the past oral cancer has been mostly associated with the older population and mostly males – heavy drinking and smoking have also been to blame.

However the tide is turning. Now there’s a huge increase in people under the age of 40 being diagnosed thanks to HPV, the human papillomavirus.

“It’s being transmitted orally and that is causing the throat and oral cancers,” Frimtzis said.

Anyone is a potential victim of oral and throat cancers, which is all the more reason he says to get checked annually.

The VELscope is also equipped with a camera so dentists can take a photo, then send the image to an oral surgeon for further evaluation.