Blog Post

Oral Cancer Screenings Save Lives

ITHACA- (WENY) – We know how important it is to go to the doctor for regular check-ups, and what we should do to keep our bodies in tip-top shape, but what about our dental health.

Many people go years without an oral exam simply because they don’t like going to the dentist, but what you don’t know could kill you. According to Dr. John Comisi, D.D.S., M.A.G.D. of Dental Care with a Difference in Ithaca, NY, 42,000 Americans will die this year of oral cancer.

That makes for a scary statistic, but perhaps even more frightening is the disease has a less than 50% survival rate if not caught early.

According to Dr. Comisi says, “When it gets into the later stages , stage three and four, the survival rate in five years is extremely, extremely low.”

Oral cancer is caused by things like smoking, heavy alcohol and drug use, and maybe most surprising, approximately 60% of new cases have been sexually transmitted.

Dr. Comisi says, “One of the more prevalent, causative situations is HPV, the Human Papilloma Virus, that is starting to become one of the epidemic aspects of oral cancer.”

It can result in severe disfigurement. Patients have been know to lose parts of their tongue and/or jaw because of head and neck cancers.

In the past, dentists would have to wait for tell-tale signs of possible oral cancer like frank lesions, to show up on the surface. However, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, 90% of oral cancer cases are curable if detected early.

Luckily, dentists now have tools like the VELscope VX which allow them to see potential problem spots before it’s too late; giving their patients more of a fighting chance.

The technology isn’t exactly new. Dr. Comisi has been using it since 2006, but says that the new hand-held version makes detection in his patients even easier. Dr. Comisi says, “When I use the VELscope, and I discover something that I did not see during my typical examination, it just makes it very, very shocking.”

The VELscope uses a narrow band of high-energy blue light called Fluorescence Visualization, allowing dentists to look deep beneath the tissue’s surface and detect potential cancerous abnormalities. When the dentist shines the light into a patient’s mouth- normal, healthy tissue will show up green, problem areas will remain darkened.

Dr. Comisi is very pleased with what it allows him to do, saying, “I’m darn glad that I have a device like this to help me in the overall analysis and monitoring of what my patients’ well-being are.”

Having a screening is something that’s essential to your overall health. It’s a simple task that can take less than five minutes to perform, and could save your life.