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We have had early detection screenings for breast, prostate and cervical cancers for a long time. We all know that early detection of these three areas saves lives. The evidence of oral cancer is rising at an alarming rate. Fortunately, an early cancer screen has been developed. There are two or three methods. The one I prefer is called Vizilite screening. It is a vinegar-like liquid that is swished in the mouth for 30-60 seconds. Then, a special light is used to view the tissue for any suspicious lesions. If the lesions are not visible to the naked eye but are detected with Vizilite, they are 90% successfully treated. If they are visible to the naked eye, they are more advanced and have a 10-15% cure rate. Therefore, early detection is important. You would think that smokers, tobacco chewers, etc would be the main people at risk. However, 25% of all oral cancers occur in people who do not have any tobacco habits or any other lifestyle risk factors.

We recommend every adult has the vizilite screening at least every one to three years. If you use tobacco, every year it is recommended to be safe. Just because a lesion is seen does not mean it is oral cancer, but does indicate further testing be done (such as a biopsy).

You can request a Vizilite screening at your next dental appointment. This risk begins at the age of 18 and goes up accordingly with the risk factors present. But remember, 25% of all oral cancers have no causative factor, so everyone is at risk!