Three dental clinics in Chilliwack are holding free oral cancer screenings this week.
On April 16 and 17, Willow Dental Care and 123Dentist.com in Chilliwack will be waiving the standard $34 fee for oral cancer screenings in an effort to get more people thinking about cancers of the mouth.
Oral cancer is one of the deadliest cancers without early detection.
Survival rate is 63 per cent, lower than cervical, skin, and prostate cancers. Four in 10 patients diagnosed die within five years. And those who do survive, face devastating disfigurements with the loss of their jaw, roof of their mouth, or part of their cheek.
Early detection increases survival to more than 80 per cent.
“Oral cancer is one of the least talked about cancers, yet it’s quite deadly,” said Dr. Pierre Vigneault, dentist with Willow Dental Care and 123Dentist.com.
In his more than 30 years as a dentist, Vigneault has diagnosed three oral cancer cases – all of which ended in death.
According to the BC Cancer Agency, approximately 500 new cases are diagnosed in B.C. every year. And it’s not just smokers or alcohol consumers at risk anymore. There are growing incidences of oral cancers linked to people carrying the human papillomavirus (HPV) – meaning younger, sexually active people are also at risk.
“The demographic of the disease is changing; a different population is now at risk,” said Vigneault.
“Oral screenings can save lives. Dentists are the people who can actually diagnose or find oral cancers – dentists are the doctors of the mouth.”
In the early stages of oral cancer, there is often no visible signs or discomfort. As a result, many oral cancers are discovered when they’re already advanced and less responsive to treatment.
But with the state-of-the-art early screening device – the Visually Enhanced Lesion Scope (VELscope) – those cancers can be detected much earlier.
VELscope is a handheld instrument that uses fluorescence to highlight deep-rooted abnormalities in the soft tissues of the mouth.
“It’s kind of like when you wear a white shirt under a black light and the shirt glows,” said Vigneault. “When you use this frequency of light on an abnormal tissue, the tissue reflects light differently, it appears darker than it normally would, and that leads to suspicion and investigation.”
The screening is pain-free and takes less than five minutes to perform.
In Chilliwack, there is a Willow Dental Care clinic in Garrison Crossing and in Salish Plaza on Yale Road. There is also a 123Dentist.com in Eagle Landing.
The clinics are accepting donations for oral cancer research.
All donations will be matched by the clinics and donated to the BC Cancer Agency.