TODAY (April 17), Willow Dental Care and 123Dentist.com clinics across the Lower Mainland are offering free oral cancer screenings to the public, waiving their standard fee for the service.
Oral cancer is one of the least discussed cancers, and if it goes undetected, the results can be devastating. About 500 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year in BC and 170 patients die from the disease, according to the BC Cancer Agency. Due to low early detection rates, the disease is one of the deadliest cancers, with four in 10 patients dying within five years of diagnosis. Survival rates (63%) are lower than cervical cancers (75%), melanoma cancers (89%) and prostate cancers (95%).
However, with advances in technology, dental professionals can detect a wide variety of oral malignancies before they develop into cancer. In Canada, the technology can detect an estimated 84 per cent of oral cancers. As a result, the College of Dental Surgeons of BC recommends that dental professionals across the province should incorporate oral cancer screening using a fluorescence visualization device into routine patient exams.
“Oral cancer screening is a preventative best practice we follow in all of our clinics to safeguard the health of their patients,” says Dr. Pierre Vigneault, a dentist with Willow Dental Care and 123Dentist.com. “By offering free screenings on April 16 and 17 as part of our community initiatives program, we hope to raise awareness of the importance of oral cancer detection, encourage our patients to make oral cancer screening a part of their routine dental checkups, and raise money for an important cause.”
All Willow Dental Care and 123Dentist.com clinics use a state-of-the-art device called a Visually Enhanced Lesion Scope (VELscope), a handheld instrument that allows early detection of oral cancers by allowing dentists to see changes in the mouth not visible to the naked eye. The screening exams are pain-free and take less than five minutes to perform.
In the early stages of oral cancer, there may be no visible signs or discomfort present. As a result, between 30 to 40 per cent of oral cancers in BC are diagnosed in the late stages. Many oral cancers are only discovered when they are advanced and less responsive to treatment. Treatment at this stage is often disfiguring and can dramatically affect how someone looks, eats and socializes. Think about losing part of your jaw, the roof of your mouth, or even your life.
Among risk factors, oral cancer is linked to alcohol and tobacco consumption, as well as with increasing age (risk is greatest over 40 years). However, there is a growing incidence of oral cancers connected to people who carry HPV, Human papillomavirus, meaning younger people who are sexually active may also be at risk.
“This changing demographic means an even greater reason for us to promote oral cancer awareness and the importance of regular oral cancer screening exams,” says Dr. Vigneault.
To find a Willow Dental Care or 123Dentist.com clinic offering a free screening on April 16-17, please visit: willowdentalcare.com or 123dentist.com. Schedule early, as appointments will fill up quickly. The clinics will waive the usual fee of $34 as part of their community initiatives program, inviting patients to make a donation for their free exam.
All funds will be matched by Willow Dental Care and 123Dentist.com, and proceeds will be donated to the BC Cancer Foundation at the An Evening to Conquer Oral Cancer gala on April
24 to support the BC Cancer Agency’s BC Oral Cancer Prevention Program.