Cancer Breakthroughs: Detecting oral cancer


by KING 5 News

Posted on October 20, 2009 at 12:06 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

The next time you visit the dentist you may be asked to open wide for the velscope, a new way to screen for oral cancer.


"The key to preventing, or dying from oral cancer is making sure you catch it in an early stage," said hygienist Amy Mitchell.

Amy works in Woodinville at the offices of Dr. Michael Koczarski, one of only 50 dentists nationwide who used the velscope during clinical trials.

Now Amy makes it part of her regular check-ups.

With a high energy blue-light, the velscope illuminates the gums.

For Amy, it's like looking through a pair of night-vision goggles. She sees florescent green when the light shines on normal tissue.

And if there are pre-cancerous cells, the color changes.

"But oral cancer cells, unhealthy cells, precancerous cells, don't have the capability to emit that light back to the scope so they end up absorbing all the light so they show up as a dark color, a dark green or a dark black. Very easy to spot," said Amy.

The velscope received FDA approval last year, making it easier for hygenists like Amy to shed new light on cancer.

"Since oral cancer is such a treatable cancer, I can see it actually getting to the point where 90 percent of people who have oral cancer can be treated and clear of it," she said.