"In a 24-hour period, every hour, one person dies of oral cancer. If we can be preventative ... saving a life ... that's what it's all about," says Stephen Brattesani, D.D.S., a dentist with Marina Pacific Heights Dental Care in San Francisco, Calif.
A new device -- called VELscope -- is doing that. It uses a non-invasive blue light to spot oral cancer in its earliest stages.
"Anything that's healthy shows up appleish green. Anything that's not healthy shows up in a dark color so cancer or basal cells that started to change would show up like an oil slick," Dr. Brattesani says.
Until now, oral cancer was only detected once it hit surface tissue. With this light, abnormalities are found far below the surface -- even in pre-cancerous states.
"It's the closest thing we have to the earliest detection process available," Dr. Brattesani says.
The light found a suspicious dark spot in Spencer Larson's mouth. A biopsy followed -- it's not cancer -- a relief to Larson.
"It shows a cleaning is more than a cleaning. It's a check-up," Larson says.
Katherine Brienze says the new test is extra protection.
"I'm really glad that it's so easy. It's not invasive and it doesn't hurt ... and it takes seconds," Brienze says.
"It allows the dentist to screen patients and be proactive in having a way of stopping the disease process that unfortunately all too often has been a death sentence," Dr. Brattesani says.
When oral cancer is caught early, 90 percent of cases are curable -- providing a blue light at the end of the tunnel.
In the last thirty years, there has been a 60 percent increase in oral cancer in adults under age 40. If it's not caught in an early stage, more than half of people diagnosed with it won't live five years. VELscope is FDA approved and available to dentists right now.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT: