Oral-cancer screenings piloted at some Canadian pharmacies

April 27, 2015

As part of a pilot program, some dentists and dental hygienists in Canada will be providing free oral-cancer screenings at various London Drugs locations starting this month.

As part of a pilot program, some dentists and dental hygienists in Canada will be providing free oral-cancer screenings at various London Drugs locations starting this month.

Using a device called a VELscope, dentists will examine the inside of patient’s mouths for oral cancers and other suspicious abnormalities. The device helps detect cancers and pre-cancerous anomalies inside the mouth.

Pharmacist interventions improves diabetes outcomes

Symptoms of oral cancer include sores, swelling, or ulcers in the mouth that don’t go away; a lump in the neck that lasts more than two weeks; a white or red patch in the mouth; persistent earache or sore throat or nasal congestion; pain in the mouth, jaw, or ear without obvious cause; difficulties swallowing; and blood in the saliva or phlegm for more than a few days.

Free screenings

“The idea of providing the public access to free oral cancer screenings where they are is an excellent one. The pharmacy has expanded its role over the past few decades with many now offering not only blood pressure testing, but also more detailed services such as simple vision examinations and immunizations,” said Dennis M. Abbott, DDS, CEO, Dental Oncology Professionals. “Having a qualified dentist or hygienist on staff to offer comprehensive head and neck examinations for oral cancer not only brings awareness of the disease to many who may not even know that they should be screened, but also access that is readily available whenever the person visits the pharmacy.”

Abbott said making such screenings available without cost or appointment might encourage people to be screened for oral cancer more frequently. “A program such as this one has to opportunity to make strides in coordinated health care,” Abbott said.

John Tse, a London Drugs’ vice president, told the Vancouver Sun that the oral-screening program might be expanded across the country if it proves successful. Tse said London Drugs is paying the dentists to conduct the examinations. He said customers would either be informed that nothing unusual was detected or that further evaluation is needed. In those cases, patients will be either referred to a specialist or advised to visit their dentist.