According to the American Cancer Society, about 30,000 new cases of mouth cancer are diagnosed annually in the U.S. About half of those who have oral cancer die within five years. Early detection can make a dramatic difference in treating the cancer at curable stages and reducing oral cancer deaths.
Early detection capabilities recently have been enhanced by a new computer-assisted mouth cancer screening tool. A nationwide study of 945 patients ranging in ages from 18 to 83 was conducted by dentists at 35 U.S. academic dental care sites.
Brush biopsy specimens were obtained from oral lesions as part of the extensive research, testing the accuracy of computer-assisted diagnostic equipment. The brush biopsy caused little or no bleeding and no anesthetic was required. The computer-assisted image analysis was used to identify suspicious cells in the samples.
The computer analysis properly identified every case of pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions as confirmed by lab tests from their traditional tissue evaluations. Additionally, it also correctly identified some lesions that were benign in appearance, but were actually found to be pre-cancerous or cancerous. Had it not been for this new diagnostic equipment, these lesions would have escaped detection and the patient would not have received any additional oral cancer testing.
"Early evaluation of oral pre-cancerous lesions can have a dramatic impact on oral cancer mortality rates," says Dr. James J. Sciubba, DMD, PhD, professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology at State University of New York at Stony Brook, who also serves as a spokesperson for the study. Early-stage mouth cancers are not easily detectable by visual inspection and may be overlooked.
The oral cancer scanner provides dentists a new evaluation tool that can lead to a significant reduction in cancer deaths. An estimated 8,100 people will die from mouth cancer this year. This new dentistry tool has shown remarkable merit as a reliable dental health device. By providing an accurate diagnosis, it has become a crucial weapon in the fight against oral cancer.
By Brian J. Gray, DDS, MAGD, FICO