RICHMOND, British Columbia — Next week, London Drugs plans to begin offering oral cancer screening clinics at 15 stores in metropolitan Vancouver, B.C.
London Drugs said Thursday that the clinics will be offered between April 25 and May 18. They follow a successful oral cancer screening pilot that the western Canada drug chain started last April. The company said the test marked first oral cancer screening in a pharmacy.
“What began as a three-clinic trial with a dental professional in collaboration with our pharmacists in April 2015 quickly grew to 12 clinics in a matter of weeks, during our first-ever attempt at this program,” said John Tse, vice president pharmacy at London Drugs. “There is clearly demand for the oral screening and continued need for awareness of oral cancer and oral cancer prevention.”
In the screening clinic, dental professionals conduct a head and neck exam and an intra-oral assessment using the LED Dental VELscope Vx Enhanced Oral Assessment System to help detect for oral tissue abnormalities. The VELscope uses a blue spectrum light to fluoresce the oral mucosa and detect tissues that aren’t apparent or visible to the naked eye, aiding in the early identification of lesions at risk for oral pre-cancer.
Patients enrolling in the oral health screening fill out an evaluation form that asks about their tobacco use, among other questions. Once the screening is completed, patients receive an evaluation summary and, if atypical issues are found, patients are recommended to visit a Next Gen Oral Prevention and Screening Community Clinic, which arose from the BC Oral Cancer Prevention Program.
London Drugs said its patient care pharmacists also will be available to discuss smoking cessation counseling and HPV vaccination, which along with alcohol consumption are risk considerations for oral cancer.
The London Drugs oral health screenings are offered by appointment. The screening costs $25, with $5 donated to the BC Oral Cancer Prevention Program. The clinics are available from 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the designated London Drugs stores. Overall, the chain has 78 stores in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
“Easy, accessible, affordable access to oral cancer screening is a major step toward early detection and recommended follow-up testing with a dentist when necessary,” Tse added.
Stacey Rhodes-Nesset, a clinical instructor in the dental hygiene degree program of the Department of Oral Biological and Medical Sciences Faculty of Dentistry at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and a clinical dental hygienist with UBC’s Dentistry-Oral Oncology Department will conduct the oral cancer screenings, accompanied by dentist Dr. Ken Neuman, who’s a member of the UBC Faculty of Dentistry and listed as one of the top 100 most influential dental educators in North America.
“London Drugs’ clinics bring incredible awareness to oral cancer screening and the importance of early detection,” Neuman said. “The best way to monitor your oral health is to work with your dental care provider, either at the dental office or at a screening clinic such as the one offered at London Drugs. This program is especially popular among individuals who might not regularly visit a dentist.”
London Drugs noted that the BC Oral Cancer Prevention Program, the College of Dental Surgeons of BC and the College of Dental Hygienists of BC have expressed strong support of the collaboration between London Drugs pharmacy and the dental professionals administering the oral cancer screenings.
Oral cancer is the world’s sixth most-common cancer, and about three people die of oral cancer daily in Canada, London Drugs reported. Most oral cancers are diagnosed late, when the survival rate is poor.
Statistics from the Canadian Cancer Society indicate that about 4,400 Canadians will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year, and many more will be diagnosed with dysplasia, or pre-cancer. The risk of oral cancer is about five to 10 times greater among smokers than non-smokers, and oral cancer risk rises even more for those who drink alcohol.