VELscope oral cancer examination LED DentalIs there a killer hiding right under your nose?

Oral Cancer is not a rare disease.  Oral cancer kills ONE person every hour of every day in the United States.   Approximately 48,250 Americans will be diagnosed this year alone and 130 individuals will be diagnosed each day with oral cancer.  Oral cancer kills more people in the U.S. than other more widely-known forms of cancer such as: cervical cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, laryngeal cancer, cancer of the testes, and endocrine system cancers such as thyroid.  The death rate for this cancer is particularly high because it is usually discovered late in its development.

Many times oral cancer goes unnoticed by patients in the early stages due to the fact that they may not be experiencing pain or symptoms.  How many times have you had a sore in your mouth that you have ignored?  Ignoring bumps, discoloration, sores, or pain is very dangerous.  If it is cancerous and you do ignore them,  you are now at a high risk of developing cancer in a second location.  There are several different types of oral cancers and they can spread into other areas like the lymph nodes of the neck.  Oral cancer is usually easy to discover if you get annual screenings.  At Rhoades Family Dentistry, we screen every patient over the age of 12 for oral cancer, at every check-up.  We ask every patient over the age of 18 years old to get screened with the Velscope Vx light once a year.  Oral cancer screenings are affordable, painless, and quick.   The good news is oral cancer can be found early in its development with an extensive oral cancer screening.  Dr. Hahn and Dr. Driscoll use a state-of-the-art piece of equipment called the VELscope Vx at each screening. This high-tech device helps our doctors find any abnormalities that are not visible to the naked eye. The VELscope Vx is the most powerful tool available for assisting in the discovery of oral abnormalities.  The VELscope helps find oral disease early, while it’s still easy to treat.  If oral cancer is found early, the 5-year survival rate is good: approximately 83%.  If found late, the 5-year survival rate is poor:  approximately 32%.  Clearly, finding oral cancer in its early stages is key to success and survival.  Get screened!


VELscope Vx

Who should get screened?

Everyone over the age of 18!  Early detection saves lives.  Finding cancer at its early, highly curable stages is possible by getting annual screenings.

What are the risk factors?             

Tobacco, Alcohol & HPV 16 Virus

Oral cancer signs and symptoms:

  • Sores that don’t heal within 14 days
  • Numbness in your mouth or lips
  • Difficulty moving jaw or tongue and/or pain in the jaw or tongue
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Persistent sore throat or hoarse voice
  • A painless lump felt on the outside of the neck, which has been there for at least two weeks
  • Constant coughing
  • An ear ache on one side (unilateral) which persists for more than a few days
  • Sensation something is stuck in your throat

The upper image is a view of the mouth with the naked eye.  The lower image is what the mouth looks like using the VELscope Vx. The hidden cancer of the salivary glands becomes plainly visible.

HPV and Oral Cancer

There are two distinct risk factors that greatly increase your odds of developing oral cancer.  The one we all know is the use of tobacco and alcohol.  The other is through exposure to HPV (human papilloma virus), which is the most commonly sexually transmitted virus in the US.  Recent studies suggest that over 1 in 3 young people carry this virus and show no symptoms.  HPV oral cancers and tobacco/alcohol oral cancer produce very DIFFERENT signs and symptoms and the treatments are different as well.

What you need to know about HPV related oral cancers

  • HPV is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers (the very back of the mouth and part of what in lay terms might be called part of the throat), and a very small number of the front of the mouth, oral cavity cancers.
  • In the oral/oropharyngeal environment, HPV16 manifests itself primarily in the posterior regions such as the base of the tongue, back of the throat and tonsils.
  • There are nearly 200 strains of HPV.  HPV number 16 is the version most responsible for oropharyngeal cancers and affects both males and females.  HPV 16 is also what causes cervical cancer in women.
  • White, non-smoking males in their 30’s and 40’s are most at risk, 4 to 1 over females.

Oral cancer screenings should be conducted once a year.  They are quick, affordable, pain free and it can save your life!

If you have any questions or would like to schedule your oral cancer screening, please give us a call  (913) 782-8900.

OCSlogoDr. Hahn, Dr. Driscoll, and the staff at Rhoades Family Dentistry proudly partner with the Oral Cancer Foundation every year to help bring awareness to our community.  If you would like additional information you can call our office or visit the Oral Cancer Foundation’s website at