A Simple Brush Biopsy Can Detect Oral Cancer

Oral cancer typically spreads rather fast. Most often, it is not detected until it is already in an advanced stage. For this reason, doctors and researchers continue to try and develop new methods of detecting it while in the early stages. This type of cancer usually starts in the squamous cells, which refers to the mucous cells that line the mouth, throat, and nose. 

Oral Cancer Screening

There are several types of oral cancer. Oral cancer screening is typically conducted by a dentist during a regularly scheduled teeth cleaning appointment. One difficulty with this is that many people do not go to dentists very often – even if they are aware that they are high risk for oral cancer. 

Another reason for the necessity of developing such a test is because most people know very little about oral cancer and what to look for. Even when some symptoms become evident, they do not understand the significance of it, or that there is an urgency to have it evaluated. 

When oral cancer is diagnosed in the early stages, this greatly increases the likelihood of survival for longer than five years. At present, the survival rate is rather low, with only 53 percent of people living past the five-year mark. 

Don’t ignore the Oral Cancer signs!

A New Test

The goal of the new test has been to create one that would be non-invasive. In the test, squamous cells were removed from the mouth of subjects via a brush, called a cytobrush biopsy. The exfoliated cells are then scanned and analyzed with advanced computer technology. Questionable cells are evaluated by a technician for further analysis. 

Previous tests were prone to show a number of false positives and false negatives. They were only accurate about 70 percent of the time, which is less than acceptable. This type of test is virtually error free. 

Precancerous cells are easily removed from the tissue that they are on. This makes it easy for a brush to remove enough of the cells to be able to detect a pre-cancerous or cancerous condition. This means that if an individual were to have a cytobrush biopsy on a sore or on suspicious tissue in the mouth, that cancer would be detected – if present.

This method of testing is able to serve as a means to detect oral cancer. The specialized brush is able to penetrate to the lower layers of a lesion, enabling the sampling to obtain cells that may be pre-cancerous.  

Previous tests were limited partially because of an improper brush technique and the reliance on a human technician. After the samples are submitted, they are scanned by a computer, which is able to find even just a few cancerous cells among hundreds of thousands – which a human might miss. 

The Key to Early Detection

Early detection of oral cancer is very important. About 53,000 people will be diagnosed with it this year, and about 10,000 will die from it this year. From this group, there will be another roughly 13,000 people who will die within the next four years. 

One of the most important keys to surviving longer from a diagnosis of oral cancer is to have an early diagnosis. Knowing that it is necessary to survival is the key. Once it has spread to distant parts of the body, the mortality rate is 83 percent within five years. 

Risk Factors for Oral Cancer

There are three primary risk factors in the development of an oral cancer. They include:

  • Tobacco – Using tobacco of any kind greatly increases your risk of oral cancer. 85 percent of head and neck cancer is connected to the use of tobacco. 
  • Heavy use of alcohol – When alcohol is combined with tobacco the risk is much higher.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)Oral HPV is a primary cause in the rise of oral cancer cases today. 

There are also some other risk factors you may want to know about. They include being a male (men have twice the risk as women), being over 45, having fair skin (for lip cancer), using marijuana, poor care of teeth, insufficient diet, and a weak immune system. 

The HPV-16 virus, which helps cause oral cancer, can easily be transferred through oral sex. Even if your sexual partner has it, there may not be any symptoms – and they may not show up for 30 years. Having sex with one person who is not having sex with anyone else is the best way to stay safe from HPV-16 and to reduce your risk of mouth cancer.

Get Tested

Besides making sure that you reduce the risk factors, you can start getting regular dental cleanings and an oral cancer screening. If the dentist discovers an area of tissue that looks suspicious, a cytobrush biopsy can be conducted. This way, you can get a head start on knowing if you have oral cancer or not.

If you have mouth sores that have lasted for at least two weeks, or if you believe that you are at high risk for developing oral cancer, and you would like to get an oral cancer screening and teeth cleaning from Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, MS, MBA, FDSRCS, a Board Certified Periodontist, can help you. The screening normally just takes about a minute. Dr. Vadivel provides complete dental care for the entire family at his offices in the Carrollton, Cedar Hill, Mockingbird/SMU and Grapevine, TX areas. Nearly all dental insurance plans are accepted. For a consultation or dental checkup, you can contact his office today at 469-470-2546