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Manual Oral Cancer Exam. VELscope ®. ViziLite ®.

January 15th, 2008 · No Comments

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation:

  • 30K people are diagnosed with oral cancer each year
  • One person dies each hour from oral cancer
  • Oral cancer is the 6th  cause for cancer-related deaths in the US
  • 52% survival rate; 80% when caught early; only 35% caught early
  • 5-year survival rate is 50%
  • 8K deaths annually
  • Not only high risk people get oral cancer
  • Only 15% of patients report having had an oral cancer screen at checkups

Detection methods allow dentists to find oral cancer in the early stages when treatment can give a patient an 80% chance of survival. Traditionally, dentists used a manual oral cancer exam, but new technology offers options that can detect the cancerous cells before they are visible on the surface of soft tissue.

However, in regards to new oral cancer detection technology, the Oral Cancer Foundation website states, "New diagnostic aids, including lights, dyes, and other techniques are beginning to appear on the marketplace. While making the discovery process more effective, it is still possible to do a comprehensive examination through a proper visual and tactile process alone. For that matter, in the foundation’s opinion the use of these devices without conducting a thorough visual and tactile examination will not yield adequate results. These are adjuncts to the visual and tactile exam, NOT replacements for it."


The following information is not intended to promote one type of oral cancer detection over another, but rather to inform dentists about the differences between new detection technology.

Manual Oral Cancer Exam

As you know, many of the abnormalities you see on soft tissue are not cancerous. Just "keeping an eye on" these areas to see if they heal is not proactive enough to truly help the patient. If the lesion is cancerous, as the cancer grows, the potential for cure decreases. You should ask the patient if the lesion has been present for longer than 14 days. An atypical herpetic or apthous lesion may look like an oral cancer lesion, but these problems subside in 10 to 14 days. If the lesion has been present for more than 14 days, a brush biopsy should be performed. A "good oral cancer examination" is described on the Oral Cancer Foundation’s website.


VELscope (click to go to website)

VELscope® is an FDA-approved, patented device created by the BC Cancer Agency and MD Anderson with funding from NIH. It uses luminescence, not a white light, to find abnormal cells. No pre-rinse is necessary. In two minutes or less, you can determine whether a person has oral mucosal abnormalities. Simply view soft tissue through the hand piece and look for dark areas among the normal green areas produced by cell luminescence. A step-by-step examination guide is available on the VELscope website as a downloadable pdf.


ViziLite (click to go to website)

ViziLite Plus® is an FDA-approved, patented device that involves a rinse, a disposable light stick, and a marking system. In the exam, your patient rinses with a solution, then you use the handheld light to find dark spots on the soft tissues of your patient’s mouth. The TBlue630 marking system allows you to mark suspicious areas, making them easy to see under normal light so that you can photograph the location for the patient’s records and insurance claim. A visual guide and a copy of the patient waiver and consent form are available for review on the ViziLite website.


Tags: Diagnostics · Uncategorized