Oral Cancer Screening
This year, over 40,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer. That is a little over 100 new cases EACH day in the US. And the rate is continuing to increase. Other names for oral cancer include mouth cancer, tongue cancer, throat cancer, and tonsil cancer.
There are two known pathways leading to oral cancer. This first is tobacco and alcohol use. The other is through exposure to HPV (human papilomma virus – HPV16). When oral cancer is detected early, survival rates are good (80-90%). Unfortunately, most oral cancers are not detected until late stage, which is why the death rate from oral cancer is high (45% five years after diagnosis). In the US, oral cancer kills one person every hour of every day; this is why Buffalo Prairie Dental and Dr KJ Sturhahn believe taking an oral cancer screening test is vital to helping maintain your oral health.
Who is at risk for oral cancer?
In the past, oral cancer was believed to be associated mostly with tobacco use. This is no longer the case. In fact, in people younger than 50 years old, HPV is now belived to be the main causitive agent. Because the risk factors now include tobacco, alcohol, and/or exposure to HPV-16, nearly every adult in the US is at risk for developing oral cancer. For this reason, Buffalo Prairie Dental recommends basic oral cancer screenings twice per year, and a specific oral cancer screening (ViziLite or VELscope) once every year (like most cancer screenings like mammogram, PSA-test, and Pap-smear). Like any cancer, it is only through early detection that your chances for survival improve.
How does Buffalo Prairie Dental screen for oral cancer?
Every time you have a cleaning and check-up at Buffalo Prairie Dental, Dr KJ Sturhahn and our hygienists are doing a visual oral cancer screening for you. Buffalo Prairie Dental strongly recommends an additional screening (VELscope) once per year. These oral cancer screenings have the ability to detect early stages of oral cancer before a lesion is visible to our eyes.
Furthermore, if you have a lump, bump, crack, ulcer, spot or other area of concern in/on your mouth, lips, tongue, palate, gums, cheek, or throat, we ask that you call us immediately, so that we can see you for an additional exam.
Even if you are not a patient of Buffalo Prairie Dental, if you have a concern, please call us and we will find time to take a look then discuss your concerns.
Will my insurance pay for oral cancer screening?
Some dental and medical insurance companies DO cover oral cancer screenings. And flex-spending accounts and health savings accounts (FSA and HSA) will reimburse for this procedure.
At Buffalo Prairie Dental, we will do a complimentary benefits check (to see if your insurance company might cover expenses), however we feel very strongly that your insurance company does not have the right to dictate the quality or level of care you receive.
Many times we are told by insurance companies: “That screening process is new technology, and so we won’t cover it.” At Buffalo Prairie Dental, we feel that this insurance mentality stands as a barrier in the way of patients receiving the best care. When our patients have to pay out of pocket for procedures, Buffalo Prairie Dental has convenient financial arrangements available at both our Quincy and Keokuk locations.