Approaches to Oral Cancer Detection

The mouth and throat
 
This booklet is about cancers that occur in the mouth (oral cavity) and the part of the throat at the back of the mouth (oropharynx). The oral cavity and oropharynx have many parts:
 
Lips
Lining of your cheeks
Salivary glands (glands that make saliva)
Roof of your mouth (hard palate)
Back of your mouth (soft palate and uvula)
Floor of your mouth (area under the tongue)
Gums and teeth
Tongue
Tonsils
 
Understanding cancer
 
Cancer begins in cells, the building blocks that make up tissues. Tissues make up the organs of the body.
Normally, cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old, they die, and new cells take their place.
Sometimes this orderly process goes wrong. New cells form when the body does not need them, and old cells do not die when they should. These extra cells can form a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor.
Tumors can be benign or malignant:
 
Oral cancer is diagnosed in more than 30,000 individuals in the US annually, claiming 10,000 lives each year. Early detection remains the best way to ensure patient survival and quality of life. During the 85th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research, scientists from the University of California-Irvine present two novel, non-invasive, ultra-fast imaging approaches to oral cancer detection, diagnostic screening, and mapping. 
 
More than 2/3 of all oral cancer cases documented by the National Cancer Institute are diagnosed at an advanced stage. The five-year survival rate is 75% for those with localized disease at diagnosis, but only 16% for those with cancer metastasis. Earlier detection of oral lesions would greatly improve the prognosis of these patients. Accurate delineation of lesion margins would ensure effective removal of all the tissue that presents a threat to the patient's long-term health.
 
The researchers describe Three-dimensional Optical Coherence Tomography (3-D OCT) and Optical Doppler Tomography (ODT), which show surface and subsurface tissues at near-microscopic levels of resolution, with the potential for replacing conventional surgical biopsy and histopathology techniques. Combined with polarimetry, accurate delineation of lesion margins becomes possible. Scanning is painless and non-invasive, lasting less than one minute with a pen-sized hand-held probe.
 
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