Identafi® Multi-Spectral Oral Cancer Screening
Quick facts about oral cancer:
- Kills more in the U.S. than well known cancers such as skin, lymphatic, thyroid, & cervical
- Almost 37,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year in the U.S
- 66% of these individuals will be diagnosed as late stage cancers, only 43% of them will survive five years
- Early detection (stages 1 or 2) increases survival rates up to 80-90%
- Late detection of oral cancer is the primary cause that both the incidence and mortality rates of oral cancer continue to increase
- Prolonged sun exposure, tobacco, & alcohol use are major contributing factors
- HPV16, the same virus that causes a majority of cervical cancers, was the primary causative factor in 63% of diagnosis in early 2011
The test is simple, painless, & fast.
The mortality rate associated with oral cancer is particularly high not because of difficulty in diagnosis or discovery, but due to the cancer being routinely discovered late in its development. Screenings for oral cancer are crucial in early detection and drastically improve survival rates. An oral cancer screening is a painfree, quick three to five minute procedure that detects external and internal abnormalities. Your head, neck, and jaws will be examined for external abnormalities, followed by a visual screening of the interior of your mouth using a specialized light wand.
When found early, oral cancer patients have nearly a 90% survival rate.
Our office uses the Identafi system by Trimera and we recommend that patients are screened once a year for oral cancer. The Identafi® uses Multi-Spectral Fluorescence and Reflectance technology to enhance visualization of mucosal abnormalities such as oral cancer or premalignant dysplasia that may not be apparent to the naked eye.
Possible Signs & Symptoms
A primary danger of oral cancer is that in its early stages, it may go unnoticed and can be painless or cause little to no physical change. However, an oral cancer screening performed by a dentist or doctor specifically looks for precursor tissue changes or the actual cancer while it is still very small or in its early stages. It may appear as a white or red patch of tissue in the mouth, or a small ulcer which appears to be a common canker sore. There are many benign tissue changes that occur normally in your mouth, such as a bite on the inside of your cheek, that may mimic the look of a dangerous tissue change. It is important to have any sore or discolored area of your mouth looked at by a professional which does not heal within 14 days. Other symptoms may include:
- lump or mass felt on the inside of the mouth or neck
- pain or difficulty in swallowing, speaking, or chewing
- wart like masses
- hoarseness which persists
- numbness in the oral/facial region
- unilateral persistent ear ache
Get screened today!
The demographics of those who develop oral cancer have remained fairly consistent over time. Historically, a majority of those diagnosed with oral cancer are over 40 at the time of discovery, however, it is now occurring more frequently in those under this age. Recently, the exact causes for those affected at a younger age have revealed a viral etiology (cause) and links to the increased use of conventional “smokeless” chewing or spit tobacco by young men or women. Often, smokeless tobacco is promoted as a safer alternative to smoking as studies have shown a reduction in lung cancers due to using smokeless tobacco over regular smoking. However, smokeless tobacco has not been shown to be any safer in regards to oral cancers, pancreatic cancers, periodontal disease, and chronic infections.
In a younger age group, including those who have never used tobacco, it has also now been confirmed that oral cancer has a HPV 16 viral based cause. The human papilloma virus, particularly version 16, has been conclusively linked to oral cancer and can be sexually transmitted between partners. This is the same virus that has been shown to be the causative agent in over 90% of cervical cancers and it is believed that HPV 16 may soon replace tobacco as the primary agent in the initiation of oral cancer.
Understanding the causative factors of oral cancer will help in the prevention of this deadly disease. Age is often named as a risk factor, as historically oral cancer occurs in those over the age of 40. The age of those who have been diagnosed with oral cancer may indicate a time component in the aging processes of the cells contributes to the malignant transformation or decreased immune system competence. However, recent data shows the fastest growing segment of the oral cancer population is non smokers under the age of fifty, which could indicate a paradigm shift in the cause of the disease or the locations where it most frequently occurs.
While age may play a role in the development of oral cancer, the primary culprits are likely accumulative damage from factors such as tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and persistent viral infections such as HPV. While it may take several decades of use, tobacco use, in all its forms, is the number one risk factor. Historically, over 75% of individuals over the age of 50 who have been diagnosed were tobacco users. When tobacco is combined with the use of alcohol, you have a 15 times greater risk of developing oral cancer than those who do not use. Tobacco and alcohol use are primarily chemical factors, but can also be considered lifestyle factors as we have control over them.
Physical factors such as exposure to ultraviolet radiation are also crucial risk factors in the development of oral cancer. UV radiation exposure is a causative agent in the cancers of the lip, as well as other skin cancers. Surprisingly, cancer of the lip is one oral cancer that has seen a decline in numbers over the past few decades, likely due to increased awareness of the damaging effects of prolonged exposure to sunlight and the use of sunscreens for protection. Exposure to x-rays is another physical factor as the accumulative effects of radiation can be harmful. Our office uses digital x-rays, which drastically reduce exposure to radiation when compared to traditional film x-rays and minimize or reduce any risk to our patients.
How oral cancer develops
Cancers develop from changes, or mutations, in genes which controll cell behaviors. Mutated genes may result in uncontrolled cell growth, the prevention of repairs in DNA damage, or the loss of the ability to self destruct (apoptosis). Cells containing mutated genes may pass these defects on to its progeny during cell divisions, resulting in the growth of new mutated cells. Random genetic mistakes happen each day as our body replaces billions of cells, and can also be caused by viruses or exposure to chemicals or radiation. Our bodies normally have mechanisms to destroy these abnormal cells, however, when they fail cancers can occur.