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  • Sarah Bolduc, RDH

Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April is Oral Cancer Awareness month. Oral Cancer Awareness week is sponsored by the Oral Cancer Foundation. The Oral Cancer Foundation is a national public service group that focuses on decreasing suffering and deaths resulting from oral cancer. Oral cancer accounts for the largest number of cases among head and neck cancers.

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, approximately 49,750 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year; this does not include the number of people already diagnosed and receiving treatment for oral cancer, or those survivors of oral cancer that are affected by the long term, often permanent effects of oral cancer treatment. Many survivors of oral cancer have associated facial disfigurement or experience mild to severe difficulties speaking and eating and are likely to face higher incidence of tooth decay as a result from decreased saliva production.

In the past, the main risk factors for oral cancer were thought to be tobacco and alcohol use. In more recent years, HPV (human papillomavirus), the same virus that is linked to cervical cancer, has been linked to oral cancers and considered to be a one of the major risk factors. Data from a recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Prevalence of HPV in Adults Aged 18–69: United States, 2011–2014, suggests that high risk types of HPV* are prevalent in approximately 23% of the US population ages 18 through 69.

When found in the early stages, oral cancers have an 80-90% five year survival rate. However, the majority of oral cancer cases are caught in the late stages and the survival rate drops dramatically to 43%.

The late diagnosis of oral cancer is not attributed to difficulty in diagnosis or lack of early signs of malignancies, but due to lack of public knowledge and routine screenings for signs of oral cancer. For this reason, Dr. Skvorak and his office are trained to screen for oral cancer at every routine visit to our office. At no extra charge, we utilize VELscope technology to screen for signs of oral cancer that may otherwise go unnoticed. Additionally, we perform head and neck exams to palpate and visually inspect the head and neck area for any indications of possible malignancies.

Figure 1: diagram of VELscope with blue light causing tissue fluorescence

Oral cancer screenings only take a few minutes, but are an essential component in decreasing suffering and deaths resulting from oral cancer.

Please check out our VELscope website page for more information on VELscope technology. Or visit or for more information on oral cancer.

*High risk types of HPV are types that have been found to cause cancers, such as oral cancer, cervical cancer, and others.


McQuillan G, Kruszon-Moran D, Markowitz LE, Unger ER., Paulose-Ram R. Prevalence of HPV in adults aged 18–69: United States, 2011–2014. NCHS data brief, no 280. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2017.

The Oral Cancer Foundation. (2017). Retrieved April 07, 2017, from

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