ViziLite Plus – Oral Cancer Screening

By Catherine M. Fascilla, D.D.S.

For the past five years , 2005-2010, there has been an increase in the occurrence of oral cancers. This includes cancers of the mouth, lip, tongue, tonsils and throat . The Oral Cancer Foundation reported a major jump of 11% in 2007 alone. One American will die from oral cancer every hour. While the death rate of other cancers like breast, prostate, colon and cervical have significantly declined, there has been no decline for oral cancer in over 40 years.

Anyone 18 years of age and older is at risk for oral cancer. Men are diagnosed twice the rate of women. 95% of cases are found in those 40 years and older. Risk factors include tobacco use, chronic alcohol consumption, and infection with the human papilloma virus. 5% of those diagnosed have no identified cause and are believed to be genetically predisposed.

About 45% of those diagnosed with oral cancer will succumb to the disease. The primary reason for this consistently high death rate is that these cancers are often discovered in later stages (III and IV). Late detection increases morbidity and can have disfiguring consequences that severely compromise the quality of life for the patient. Found in its early stages, oral cancer has a very high cure rate of 90%.

The ViziLite Plus exam , introduced in 2002, was developed to help increase the ability of your dentist or hygienist to identify abnormal tissue that might develop into oral cancer. It is a simple and painless screening procedure that involves the use of a special light source and a blue dye. You’ll be asked to rinse with a cleansing solution. The overhead lighting will be dimmed. Your dental professional will examine your mouth using ViziLite Plus, a specially designed light technology. Abnormal cells will appear distinctively white. A toluidine blue-based dye is applied. Tissue that absorbs the blue stain should be carefully evaluated. You may be referred to an oral surgeon for biopsy.

This exam is not designed to replace the the visual / manual exam that is done annually by your dentist but to enhance it. Death rates have dropped when when adjunctive screening technologies were added to the visual/manual screening exams for other cancers. For example, the Pap Smear was introduced in 1952 and has resulted in a 70-80% decrease in death rate. The Mammogram , introduced in 1972 has resulted in a 45% reduction and the PSA Test has decreased the death rate of prostate cancer by almost 18% since 1986. The hope is that ViziLite and other similar technologies will also save lives.

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