South Florida State College’s Dental Education programs will offer no-cost oral cancer screenings on Thursday, Oct. 13, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m., at the Dental Education Center on the SFSC Highlands Campus. The free screening is available to the public by appointment.

The screening is a painless process that takes about 15 minutes. After a brief medical history, patients receive a head and neck examination. When needed, the visual examination is followed by a VELscope examination in which a florescent light is shown into the mouth to help to detect abnormal cells not visible to the eye.

“Even people who wear dentures should have an oral cancer screening every year,” said Dr. Deborah Milliken, department chair, Dental Education. “Dental hygienists and dental assistants tend to be community-minded individuals and oral cancer screening is only one of the many ways they serve their communities.”

Approximately 48,250 people in the United States will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer in 2016, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. An intra-oral screening helps to detect early stages in many cases. When oral cancers are found in their early stages of development, patients have an 80 to 90 percent recovery rate.

Individuals at risk for oral cancer include alcohol and tobacco users, those with frequent exposure to the sun, and people who have been infected with certain strains of human papilloma virus (HPV), which presents a five-times increase in occurrence in people under the age of 40. Still, up to 25 percent of people who develop oral cancer have no risk factors.

To make an appointment, call the SFSC Dental Education program at 863-784-7020.