Berrien Dental

Berrien Dental Gives Each Patient an Oral Cancer Screening

The Oral Cancer Foundation reports that over 42,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States. The mortality rate of oral cancer has not changed in over thirty years in part due to the fact that it isn’t diagnosed early enough.


Berrien Springs, MI -- (SBWIRE) -- 02/26/2014 -- Berrien Dental uses the VELscope oral cancer screening system. Dr. Todd Christy, Dr. Eric Balsis and the hygienists can detect suspect areas before they are visible to the naked eye. Oral cancer appears as white, red, or white and red patches. When these patches are able to be seen by the naked eye it typically means the cancer is already in an advanced stage. VELscope allows the Berrien Dental doctors to detect possible oral cancer at its earliest stage, when oral cancer is still often curable.

The VELscope system uses a powerful blue light to increase the ability to see lesions, cancerous, and precancerous cells typically invisible to the naked eye. “The light allows me to distinguish between normal and abnormal cells with a higher rate of accuracy,” states Dr. Christy. VELscope also allows for better removal of all diseased tissue.

“Risk factors for oral cancer vary for different people. Some risk factors, such as age or race, can’t be changed. Others may be related to smoking, drinking, or diet. Some factors influence risk more than others. But risk factors don't tell us everything,” says Dr. Balsis. Having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean that a person will get the disease. Also, not having any risk factors doesn't mean that a person won't get it, either.

“Common risk factors related to oral cancer are, tobacco use, drinking alcohol and the human papilloma virus (HPV). The risk goes up even more for people who use both tobacco and alcohol. About 7 out of 10 patients with oral cancer are heavy drinkers,” remarks Dr. Christy. Infection with certain types of HPV can also cause some forms of cancer. HPV can be passed from one person to another during skin-to-skin contact. The type of virus linked to throat cancer (including cancer of the oropharynx) is HPV16.

Oral and oropharyngeal cancers are twice as common in men as in women. “This might be because men have been more likely to use tobacco and alcohol in the past. While this is changing, the recent rise in HPV-linked cancers has been mainly among younger men,” Dr. Christy noted.

Screening for oral cancer with VELscope is completed in a minute or two and is a non-invasive procedure. This screening is included in every routine dental exam and there is no extra charge for the procedure. Call Berrien Dental at 269-471-4055 and make an appointment for a six-month check-up.