Oral cancer is one of the few forms of cancer that has not experienced a significantly deceased mortality rate in the last 30 years. Deaths from oral cancer are higher than from cervical, testicular or thyroid cancer. It is estimated that more than 340,000 Indians will develop oral cancer in 2009 and that one Indian dies of this disease every hour of the day. The five year survival rate for oral cancer is approximately 50 percent, but early detection can result in survival rates of 80 percent or higher. The ideal opportunity for early detection of cancerous or pre-cancerous growths is during the annual hygiene examination. Unfortunately, the cellular changes that lead to oral cancer start below the surface of the epithelium at the basement membrane, making them difficult to detect by conventional screening methods.
The annual hygiene exam should basically comprise of traditional incandescent light examinations to enhance the visualization of oral mucosal abnormalities that may not be visible to the naked eye, such as oral cancer or pre-malignant dysplasia. There have been scientific breakthroughs in the world of dentistry giving them more accurate devices to detect oral cancer. The devices are portable and can be used by hygienists or dentists themselves and the examination takes only one or two minutes. The oral cancer detection devices use fluorescence visualization technology resulting in abnormal tissue appearing irregular, dark areas that stand out against the otherwise normal, green fluorescence pattern of surrounding healthy tissue.
This significant advancement in early detection is very easy for the dental staff to administer and completely non-invasive for the patient. It takes very little time, is pain-free, and involves no distasteful rinses or staining. In addition, the cost to the patient for oral cancer screening is covered by most of the insurance companies.