04/08/2015 07:26 EDT | Updated 06/08/2015 05:59 EDT

London Drugs now offering oral cancer screening tests

London Drugs is offering free oral cancer screening at six select locations in Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby over the coming weeks to raise awareness about the benefits of early detection and treatment.

Oral health specialist Dr. Samson Ng, who helped design the screening, says the general comprehensive oral assessment will show patients whether they should seek treatment.

"This is the first time we are working with colleagues outside the dental field to find ways to combat the minimally known but deadly, oral cancer," said Dr. Ng.

- Book an oral health screening at London Drugs

The Canadian Cancer Society's statistics indicate approximately 4,300 Canadians will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year.

Ng says people most at risk are chronic smokers, drinkers, and those who are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke. The risk of oral cancer is about five to 10 times greater among smokers than non-smokers.

As part of the screening, a dental professional uses the VELscope Vx Enhanced Oral Assessment System handheld scope, technology developed by researchers at the BC Cancer Agency, to help detect for oral tissue abnormalities.

Simple and painless process

As a general rule, Dr. Ng says you should seek treatment if any lesion in your mouth remains for more than two weeks. 

The screenings are part of pilot program and may be expanded to pharmacies across Canada. The process only takes a few minutes and is described by Dr. Ng as simple and painless.

"The whole idea is not just to look into patient's mouth, but bring about education and the public awareness of oral cancer," says Dr. Ng.

"As long as there is public arousal about the whole situation, I think it will be considered a success."

To hear the full interview with Dr. Samson Ng, listen to the audio labelled: London Drugs oral cancer screening