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Oral cancer kills roughly 1 person, per hour every day in the US.

VELscope Enhanced Oral Assessment System

Recognized by the World Health Organization in 2009 as a commercialized medical device that addresses global health concerns and is accessible to low and middle-income countries. The award-winning VELscope, the latest model release of VELscope technology, uses natural tissue fluorescence to improve the way practitioners examine the oral mucosa and screen for tissue abnormalities by enhancing the visualization of pre-cancers, cancer, and other disease processes.


This year alone, nearly 54,000 people in the USA will be diagnosed with oral and oropharyngeal cancer and nearly 11,000 will die.

Often generally referred to as “oral cancer”, oral and oropharyngeal cancers are any cancer that forms in the mouth, lips, cheeks, gums, tongue, hard palate, tonsils and throat.


In many cases, oral or oropharyngeal cancers are not diagnosed until the localized lesion has spread regionally to lymph nodes in the neck or metastasized to a more distant part of the body such as the lung.  Once this happens the options for treatment are diminished and the chances of a full recovery are reduced dramatically.  The importance of finding oral cancer early is illustrated in the graph below showing the 5-year relative survival rates according to the stage of the cancer upon discovery:

Unfortunately, the latest statistics indicate that oral cancer, when initially diagnosed, is still localized (i.e., hasn’t spread) only 28% of the time.  By ensuring that you have regular oral screenings and performing self-evaluations, you can help change this statistic!


Regular Oral Screenings Could Save Your Life

Early Detection

If oral cancer is discovered early, the 5-year relative survival rate is over 85%.  If discovered late, it is only about 40%. This year, about 54,000 people in the USA will be diagnosed with oral/oropharyngeal cancer and nearly 11,000 will die. Early detection is key.

What is Oral Cancer?

Often generally referred to “oral cancer”, oral and oropharyngeal cancers are any cancer that forms in the mouth, lips, cheeks, gums, tongue, hard palate, tonsils and throat.

Stealthy & Deadly

Most of the time oral cancer is diagnosed late only when it has spread regionally to the lymph nodes in the neck or, even worse, to a more distant location in the body such as the lungs.  When found late like this survival rates are dramatically reduced. Regular oral screenings could save your life.

Comprehensive Oral Exam (COE)

Also referred to as an intra and extraoral head and neck exam, this is an examination performed by a clinical practitioner that assesses your head and neck for anything unusual (e.g. asymmetry or abnormal lumps and bumps) and also the inside of your oral cavity.  The clinician uses both their eyes (visual assessment) and their hands (palpation) to help check for anything unusual.  You’ll usually remember if you’ve had this examination performed because it involves having your tongue gently pulled out so that the clinician can get a good look at the base of your tongue.  Although this examination is an overall assessment of the health of your head and neck region and is checking for all kinds of disease, one of its most important functions is to screen for oral cancer and precancer (so-called “dysplasia”).

Enhanced Oral Screening

Your dentist or hygienist performs an examination with the VELscope after they have performed the COE to try and find anything that they might have missed with the regular exam.  The VELscope emits specific wavelengths of blue spectrum light into your mouth to stimulate natural tissue fluorescence which can be viewed directly through the VELscope.  Research has shown that the VELscope can help find abnormal tissue that might have unnoticed by the naked eye.

Finding an Abnormality

If your dentist or hygienist finds something unusual that needs further investigation, don’t panic, it doesn’t mean that you have oral cancer!  There are all sorts of conditions that can lead to abnormalities in your oral mucosa and most of them are unrelated to oral cancer.  Some of them will go away on their own and some may require some sort of action on the part of the clinician to resolve.  In these circumstances, you may be asked to come for a follow-up visit so that the area can be reassessed and, occasionally, your dentist may refer you to a specialist for a biopsy. Biopsy is the gold standard for diagnosing abnormal tissue.


Oral/Oropharyngeal Cancer Risk Factors

Tobacco Use

  • Tobacco is still one of the strongest risk factors for oral and oropharyngeal cancers.
  • Both regular smoking and oral tobacco products (e.g. snuff, chewing tobacco) are implicated.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection

  • A particular strain of the HPV virus, HPV16, is strongly associated with oropharyngeal (base of tongue, back of throat) cancer.
  • 70% of oropharyngeal cancer is believed to be associated with HPV16 infection.
  • Currently, this is the fastest growing subtype of oral/oropharyngeal cancer.

Chewing Betel quid or gutka

  • More commonly seen in Southeast Asia and certain other parts of the world.
  • Betel quid is a mixture of the betel nut and other ingredients and gutka is a mixture of betel quid and tobacco.


  • Statistically, males are at higher risk for oral/oropharyngeal cancer than females.

Being Overweight


  • Oral cavity cancer (mostly tobacco related) is seen more commonly in older individuals (older than 50).
  • HPV associated oropharyngeal cancer is more common in younger people (younger than 50).

UV light (sun exposure)

  • UV-light associated lip cancer used to be one of the most common types of oral cancer.
  • There has been a sharp decrease in lip cancer incidence in recent years that is generally attributed to use of SPF lip balm.

There are some excellent resources on the internet for more information on oral and oropharyngeal cancers and their associated risk factors. We encourage you to take advantage of these resources to find out more and become better educated about oral cancer. 


Some good starting points are:

The Primary Risk Factors that can be Mitigated are:

Learn how to do a self check exam.

Common screening tests and average costs covered by most dental and medical insurances.

Oral Cancer Screening


Pap Smears

PSA Test


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