Session 4 – What is a VELscope and What Advantages Are There to Using It?

The VELScope is a device that is used to screen people for oral cancer, and it is a truly amazing invention that has already saved many lives by facilitating early diagnosis through simple, and non-invasive testing.

Oral cancer is considered to be a ‘forgotten disease’, and it is a huge killer it kills more people than cervical, brain and testicular cancer, but it does not get very much publicity at all. There are more than 30,000 people diagnosed with oral cancer each year in America alone, and just 57 percent of those will have a life expectancy of more than five years without getting treatment.

A lot of people mistakenly believe that oral cancer is something that people are only at risk of contracting if they use alcohol or tobacco. While it is true that regular use of alcohol or tobacco can indeed increase your risk of contracting oral cancer, one-quarter of people who are diagnosed with the disease abstain from both tobacco and alcohol use.

Because oral cancer affects so many people, and it’s not something that has a single clear risk factor, it is vital that you get regular screenings. The dentist in Jacksonville FL that I go to will perform tests for oral cancer during your regular scheduled check-up, and those tests are useful, but they can be even more accurate if they are performed using the kinds of tools that are available now in our digital dentistry age- and the VELscope is one of those tools. Check out my dentist’s facebook and twitter page as well.

What is the VELscope?

The VELscope is a blue lamp which can highlight pre-cancerous cells, and cells that are undergoing cancerous changes. It is an ‘excitation lamp’, and it uses a technology called Fluorescence Visualisation to help highlight cancerous cells. To put it simply, the dentist will shine a bright blue lamp into the patient’s mouth, and this will expose changes to the mouth that would not be visible to the naked eye. The light makes it easier to spot lesions and other issues, and it helps the dentist to spot things that might be signs of cancer.

One of the most serious challenges that dentists face when they are testing for oral cancer is the fact that a lot of the symptoms of oral cancer look a lot like the symptoms of other, less serious problems. The VELscope makes it easier for the dentist to tell what is going on under the surface, because healthy oral tissue will absorb the light that the VELscope produces, and will show up in green, while tissues that are likely to be cancerous or precancerous will become darker.

What really makes the VELscope interesting is that it can be combined with digital photography to produce a record of what is going on in the mouth. It highlights issues that cannot be seen under white light with the naked eye, allowing the dentist to see white and red patches and lesions, and spot cancer at its earliest stage. It can even be used in treatment, to ensure that diseased tissues have been completely removed. These factors mean that it an exponentially increase the chances of a patient surviving.

A VELscope examination is easy to perform, painless, and non-invasive. It can be performed in minutes, and it could save lives. To perform the examination, the dentist will first perform a standard visual examination of the face, then ask the patient to swill a pre-rinse solution around their mouth for about a minute. The lights in the room will be dimmed, and the dentist will put on some eyewear to protect their eyes from the device’s light. The VELscope is then inserted into the mouth and used to project blue light around the whole of the mouth. If the dentist spots something that looks like it may be cancerous, then the dentist may choose to take a biopsy to determine whether the cells are indeed cancerous or not. Once the results of the biopsy are back, the dentist can make an informed decision about whether or not any further action is required. Most dentists would recommend that a patient have an oral cancer screening performed once per year as a part of their regular dental health check-ups.