Early VEL-scope diagnostics of oral cancer

In 2014 our dental clinicians and maxillofacial surgeons introduced in Medicus Alpha – first on national scale – the VEL-scope diagnostics – an innovative technology for identifying abnormal tissue in the oral cavity even before it could be spotted with naked eye or complained from by the patient.

What is the VEL-scope (fluorescence) diagnostics?

This is a noninvasive method, completely painless, and it is the laureate of the WHO prize for innovations. The test is being performed with a VEL-scope – a highly specialized appliance emitting rays with specific wavelength. The natural fluorescence of the oral cavity tissues is directly visualized, differing between normal and abnormal tissue. This facilitates the diagnostics of various abnormalities of the oral mucosa. Among the most important features of this diagnostic method is the capability to diagnose oral cancer in its earliest sages, before any clinical manifestation is present yet.
Within a two-year period , under the early cancer diagnosis program, 582 patients have been examined, 64 of them have volunteered a prophylactic examination without having any specific oral health issues, the rest have sought consulting with regard to existing symptoms. The examinations have been performed under a procedure specifically designed by the Medicus Alpha specialists to include detailed anamnesis, thorough extra- and intra-oral and VEL-scope examination, known as fluorescent diagnostics. Following an analysis of the results, the need for further examinations and biopsy have been assessed. The campaign results show inflammatory processes in 2/3 of the examined cases. The greatest is the percentage of glossites (tongue inflammation). 42 cases of lichen planus have been found, 4 of which in a more adverse erosion form. 14 of the patients have been made laser ablation; 15 have been the cases of proven leukoplakia, 10 of whom have been treated surgically.

Lichen planus and leukoplakia are pre tumor conditions and their early diagnostics and adequate treatment practically prevent cancer. There have been found also 5 cases of advanced stage cancer.
The risk factors here are smoking and use of tobacco products; frequent or excessive use of alcohol; abuse of narcotic and psychoactive substances (marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines); piercing; pathogalvanism; compromised immune system; past anamnesis of cancer in other parts of the body. Risk is present also with people employed in hazardous work environment – metallurgy, chemical industry, high levels of dust, outdoors workmen, working in the the presence of radioactivity sources, glassblowing workmen, etc. Other factors could be some of the bad habits (habitual biting of oral mucosa, retaining foreign bodies in the oral cavity); untreated dental diseases; misuse of spicy food. Some new researches sow that risk factor for oral cavity cancer is HPV, strain 16.

Cancer of the oral cavity – little is known about it
The studies prove that cancer of the oral cavity (COC) is the sixth most common type of cancer. Annually about 700 000 cases are being diagnosed worldwide, and about 900 – in Bulgaria. The latest data show that 25% of the patients with newly diagnosed COC do not fall into the high-risk profile group. The highest peak is seen in patients below 40 years of age. If diagnosed in the early stage (while still in situ), the percentage of patients who outlive the 5-year threshold is around 83%-90%. However, most often the diagnostics is made in later stages, when COC has spread into the adjacent lymph nodes, and then the percentage of outliving is around 42 %, or has metastasized into other organs, which decreases this percentage to 17 %.
Around the globe this type of cancer kills a human each hour, and many of those who survive have to cope with a long, painful and in many cases, mutilating treatment. This causes changes in their articulation, mastication, swallowing, facial aesthetics, which affects their social life and self-esteem.
The cancer of the oral cavity is within that limited group of tumor locations whose percentage of outliving has not improved over the last 50 years. The reason for this is mainly the fact that within this period, the methods for diagnostics and screening of this type of disease have not developed.

For comparison:
Although the number of those getting oral cancer and dying from it is twice bigger than that of patients with cervical cancer, the public informedness on the latter is greater. A large number of the women population know that the annual prophylaxis by a smear test may save their life. However, few are those who are aware of the same significance of oral cancer prophylaxis. Medicus Alpha is the only center where, thanks to the VEL-scope method, this prophylaxis can be materially effective even in the earliest stages of diseases of oral cavity mucosa.