WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Dr. Michele Simpson, a dentist based in Wilmington, and her staff screened more than 50 people for oral cancer at Independence Mall on Friday as part of a free community outreach event.
"Today, we're using something called the Oral ID, which is a light that we shine in the mouth so it fluoresces on the tissue, and it's a really great way to detect something early," said Simpson. "We're shining a light to save a life."
Simpson emphasized that you should ask for an oral cancer screening every time you get dental care.
About one person dies every hour in the United States from oral cancer, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
There are two main causes of oral cancer: long-term use of tobacco and alcohol and exposure to a certain HPV strain, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
"Oral cancer is not being caught early so the survival rate is less than 50 percent," said Simpson. "If we can catch it early, chances of survival are greatly improved. That's really why it's so important to get screened every time you go to the dentist."
The screening process was free and took less than a minute. Simpson checked each patient's gums and underneath the tongue.
Simpson's team also took part in the Bubble Challenge and encouraged passersby to also participate.
The Bubble Challenge raises awareness for oral cancer screening because patients who are treated for oral cancer may require facial reconstruction, which means they cannot blow a bubble with gum afterward.