New Oral Cancer Screening Test: Salivary Diagnostics

With April being Oral Cancer Awareness month, I wanted to share information about one of the newest oral cancer screening tests to date, salivary diagnostics. A good oral cancer exam, by an oral health professional, is still the gold standard in detecting oral cancer.  It is always best when an individual’s cancer can be detected early and treated.  Unfortunately, all of the current oral cancer screening tests using special stains and light exams that only detect surface irregularities. This approach may lead to unnecessary surgery for rough but non-cancerous areas. There is a great deal of interest in using different lights to look for genetic abnormalities, but until now, only looking at some of the suspicious tissue under a microscope could determine if it was cancer. 

A new test gets us closer to detecting cancer utilizing a unique approach that evaluates distinctive protein biomarkers that are commonly produced by oral cancers. This technique is more specific than lights or stains and holds promise as a screening test. The test to examine saliva is called salivary diagnostics. A patient spits into a small sample tube that is then sent off for analysis. This process has the advantage that it can indicate oral cancer in areas that are harder to see in the doctors office such as behind the tonsils in the oropharynx and near the base of tongue. Hopefully, salivary diagnostics can realize its potential as an easier way to screen for oral cancer in higher risk individuals who smoke or chew tobacco products. If you have additional questions regarding this test, please contact our office for further information. 


Bart D. Williams III, M.D., D.M.D., FACS

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