MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - What do famous people like Aaron Spelling, Roger Ebert, and Babe Ruth have in common? They were all diagnosed with oral cancer.
Now, one Myrtle Beach dentist office is using the question to bring awareness to the disease. Smiles of Carolina Forest is using the latest technology to screen patients for oral cancer.
Jessica Smith, a dental hygienist, said she stresses to her patients the importance of getting oral cancer screenings.
"It is just like any other cancer in the body," Smith said. "It is not picky; it can choose anybody regardless of your risk factors."
Smith uses the latest technology called a VELscope, to screen patients for oral cancer. The simple exam is performed in the dental office, and has been proven successful in identifying precancerous abnormalities not detected by the human eye.
The device is looking for a florescence in the mouth and it uses a special light to detect anything that could be disrupting the blood flow.
Smith said it is very important for patients to make sure their dentist or hygienist is doing the screening on an annual basis.
"Your dental team is not just there for your teeth; they are there for your overall health," she said.
Smith warns smokers are not most at risk for the disease. She said other factors include poor diet, alcohol, and the Human Papillomvirus, or HPV.
Research has connected several strains of HPV to cancers.
According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, more than 25 percent of oral cancers patients did not smoke, nor had risk factors. Smith said it's why she encourages all patients to have the screening done.
If not detected early enough, it can spread to other parts of the body and become nearly impossible to treat.
"Just like any other cancer, the earlier you catch, the better the survival rate is," Smith said.