• One person dies from oral cancer every hour.
  • Approximately 35,000 people in the US will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer this year.
  • Over 40% of those diagnosed will die within five years.
  • The high mortality rate associated with oral cancer is due to the late stage of diagnosis.
  • The incidence rate for oral cancer is 3 times greater than cervical cancer in the US.
  • Exposure to the HPV-16 virus (human papilloma virus) is the fasted growing risk factor for oral cancer.
  • 90% of oral cancers are “Squamous Cell Carcinomas”.


The most common and recognized factors include tobacco, including smokeless tobacco, and alcohol. This is especially true when tobacco and alcohol are used together. The fastest growing risk factor for oral cancer is exposure to the HPV-16 + 18 virus, also known as the human papilloma virus. This is the same virus that is responsible for the majority of cervical cancers in woman. Exposure to this virus presents a 5 fold increase in cancer risk for anyone under the age of 40. It has been suggested that all patients over the age of 17 should be screened annually. This age was chosen by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices because by age 17 50% of American young people have become sexually active.


Like most cancers, cancer of the lip and oral cavity is best treated when found early. Cure rates at this stage can be greater than 80%. Oral cancer is particularly dangerous, however, because it is usually painless and normally it is not noticed by the patient. In its early stages it is also very difficult to detect even by trained professionals because the oral cancer cells do not possess any visual changes that can be seen visually using normal lighting. Because of this oral cancer often goes undetected until the later stages of the disease when it has already metastasized to other locations. Because oral cancer is typically not discovered until the later stages, 40% of oral cancer patients will die within five years of the diagnosis.


Identafi wandMost oral cancer screenings are done by a Dentist, Hygienist or Periodontist. A routine “recall” exam should include a visual search for lesions and abnormal structures within the oral cavity. Over the last several years there has been the development of oral screening lights which greatly aid the professional in detecting oral cancers at a much earlier stage of development when the oral cancer is most easily, and most successfully treated. One such device is called “Identafi”. Identafi is a small handheld device which used white, amber and violet wavelengths of light to allow the screening professional to better distinguish cancer cells from normal cells. Amber light provides the ability to identify normal from abnormal tissue vascularization. Violet light is reflected by normal cells and is absorbed by cancerous cells. Under this wavelength of light cancerous areas appear dark in comparison to normal tissue.

From a patient’s perspective, using an oral screening light such as Indentafi gives you and your dentist the best opportunity and successful treatment of oral cancer. At Dr. James Austin & Associates in Belleuve, all clinical staff have been trained in the importance not only of oral cancer screening but also in the use of the light as an adjunct to this screening. At our office we routinely screen all of our patients every time they come in for a routine examination and cleaning. We recommend using the Indentafi lightonce every year. The process takes less than 5 minutes, is completely painless, and costs just $15.00. If you would like to set up a screening appointment at our office please give us a call at 425 643 5778, or visit us on the web at

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