A tiny lightstick called ViziLite Plus could help prevent 90% of all fatalities from oral cancer, according to the California-based Creative Dimensions in Dentistry (www.cddentists.com), a dental group that recommends all adults ask their dentists for the procedure.
"I predict that this screening procedure with this product will become as widespread as the PAP smear or PSA test," said Dr. Michael Erickson, a dentist at Creative Dimensions in Dentistry of San Leandro and Castro Valley, Calif. Erickson believes that the oral screening procedure with this new product will be as common as the tests for cervical and prostate cancer that are now routine elements of patients' regular diagnostic screening.
Quick, Painless Procedure
"Oral cancer is on the rise, with one American dying every hour from the disease, but early treatment is 90% effective," said Erickson. "The ViziLite Plus, used along with head and neck exams, can help dentists detect oral cancer early."
The procedure is painless and usually takes about 5 minutes. ViziLite is a small disposable, fluorescent light stick about the size of a thermometer. After the patient rinses for about 2 minutes with a raspberry-flavored solution, the doctor shines the ViziLite inside the patient's mouth to examine the mouth, lips, and inner cheeks.Cancerous tissue looks white under ViziLite, while normal tissue looks dark.
Health insurance plans do not yet cover the test, which costs about $65.00, according to Erickson.
Though smokers and tobacco users are particularly vulnerable to oral cancer and would especially benefit from ViziLite, 27% of people with oral cancer do not use tobacco or have other lifestyle risk factors, according to Erickson. "This underscores the importance of early screening."
'Small Price to Pay'
"The lack of early detection is the reason the incidence of oral cancer has increased by 5.5% and the death rate has increased by 1.5%, according to the American Cancer Society," noted Erickson.
"We believe the cost of the procedure is a small price to pay to detect oral cancer before it's too late, or for the peace of mind when you discover there's no problem and you get a clean bill of oral health," said Erickson.