The Oral Cancer Foundation recently initiated a program of donating VELscope® Oral Cancer Screening Systems to free clinics and others located in, and helping communities with, underserved populations. The first recipient of this program is the Native American Community Health Center, commonly known as Native Heath, in Phoenix, Arizona, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
According to Oral Cancer Foundation executive director Brian Hill, "Our intent is to identify free clinics and health service providers in areas that have a high concentration of people who are both at risk for oral cancer and without the financial means to pay for comprehensive oral exams." The Foundation is also careful to ensure that any clinic receiving aid in the form of equipment and materials has at least one dentist on staff that is regularly present to see patients.
Native Health's Dental Director, Dr. Mahasin Hangalay, believes it would be hard to find an area with a greater need for regular oral cancer screenings. "The Native American community that we serve has the highest rate of tobacco usage of any major demographic group in the country," she said, "as well as an extremely high poverty rate and very poor access to health care." The doctor also noted that because of the reported link between oral cancer and the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus, screenings at the clinic are not just provided to tobacco users, but also to all patients aged 16 or older. Opportunistic screenings of the entire patient population will yield the best possible outcomes.
Dr. Hangalay is particularly happy that the Oral Cancer Foundation chose to award Native Health a device which uses tissue fluorescence as it core scientific platform. "There are other screening products out there, but the value of this science has been well documented in many studies," she said. "While I am currently doing thorough visual and tactile screenings which have proven to be highly valuable in finding early disease states, tissue fluorescence helps me see things not readily visible to the naked eye."