Despite the ease of inspecting suspicious areas in the mouth, late detection remains a primary concern for oral cancer—40 percent of oral cancer patients do not survive five years after diagnosis.

This poor survival rate underlines the importance of detecting oral cancer at an early or pre-cancerous stage.

Oral cancer screening

The BC Cancer Agency’s Oral Cancer Prevention Program developed general guidelines for the dental community to screen and identify suspicious lesions. These guidelines are now being followed by dental professionals across the province.

The introduction of the VELscope, technology invented at the BC Cancer Agency, has helped dental professionals quickly identify lesions that may require further testing.

Research is our Foundation

Thanks to Foundation donors, researchers have formulated new strategies for early identification and management of oral lesions before they become cancerous, and have made significant progress, including:

  • clinical guidelines for oral cancer screening;
  • genome marker-based technology (gMART) to categorize oral lesions into low, medium and high-risk of becoming cancer;
  • intervention strategies for high-risk population groups; and
  • new method of conducting oral surgery using fluorescence visualization technology that dramatically reduces the rate of recurrence.

The Future

The BC Oral Cancer Prevention Program is planning for a clinic that will enable oral cancer experts to create change at the community level and tailor treatments for patients who have been identified by genetic testing as high-risk.

It’s anticipated that a planned outcomes database will provide valuable data to refine and further improve screening and treatment strategies in the future.

Oral cancer patients will be assessed for risk by measuring DNA changes within the cell collected from brushing a selected area in the mouth. The results will tell clinicians whether some lesions in the mouth should be biopsied, assessed for risk and predict the development of oral cancer. 

Educational opportunities will build awareness of the disease and the importance of early detection throughout the dental community, public and government.