Early Visualization Of Mucosal Diseases
VELscope® is a revolutionary hand-held device that provides dentists and hygienists with an easy-to-use adjunctive mucosal examination system for the early detection of abnormal tissue. The patented VELscope technology platform was developed in collaboration with the British Columbia Cancer Agency and MD Anderson Cancer Center, with funding provided in part by the NIH. It is based on the direct visualization of tissue fluorescence and the changes in fluorescence that occur when abnormalities are present.
How the VELscope Works
The VELscope handpiece emits a safe blue light into the oral cavity, which excites the tissue from the surface of the epithelium through to the basement membrane (where premalignant changes typically begin) and into the stroma beneath, causing it to fluoresce. Typically, healthy tissue appears as a bright apple-green glow, while suspicious regions are identified by a loss of fluorescence, which thus appear dark.
The clinician is then able to view the different fluorescence responses to help differentiate between normal and abnormal tissue. In fact, VELscope is the only non-invasive adjunctive device clinically proven to help discover occult oral disease.
Benefits Patients, Clinicians and Practice
When used as an adjunctive aid in combination with traditional oral cancer examination procedures, VELscope facilitates the early discovery and visualization of mucosal abnormalities, including oral cancer. In one or two minutes, with no rinses or stains required, a VELscope system examination helps healthcare professionals assess their patients’ oral health. Through the CDT code D0431, an increasing number of insurance companies are recognizing VELscope as an adjunctive screening device. VELscope combines minimal per-patient costs with more effective screening.
Rates of occurrence in the United States
Close to 36,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 8,000 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. Of those 36,000 newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years. This is a number which has not significantly improved in decades.
Oral Cancer Death Rate
The death rate for oral cancer is higher than that of cervical cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, laryngeal cancer, cancer of the testes, and endocrine system cancers such as thyroid, or skin cancer (malignant melanoma). If you expand the definition of oral cancers to include cancer of the larynx, for which the risk factors are the same, the numbers of diagnosed cases grow to approximately 50,000 individuals, and 13,500 deaths per year in the US alone. Worldwide the problem is much greater, with over 640,000 new cases being found each year.
The death rate associated with this cancer is particularly high not because it is hard to discover or diagnose, but due to the cancer being routinely discovered late in its development. Often it is only discovered when the cancer has metastasized to another location, most likely the lymph nodes of the neck. Prognosis at this stage of discovery is significantly worse than when it is caught in a localized intra oral area. Besides the metastasis, at these later stages, the primary tumor has had time to invade deep into local structures.
A Treacherous Disease
Oral cancer is particularly dangerous because in its early stages it may not be noticed by the patient, as it can frequently prosper without producing pain or symptoms they might readily recognize, and because it has a high risk of producing second, primary tumors. This means that patients who survive a first encounter with the disease, have up to a 20 times higher risk of developing a second cancer. This heightened risk factor can last for 5 to 10 years after the first occurrence.
The Cost of Oral Cancer
It is estimated that approximately $3.2 billion is spent in the United States each year on treatment of head and neck cancers