Oral Cancer Diagnostic Technologies

Dulong, Elise, Jacki Losinski, Terri Goodman, Lea Sanregret, and Sabrina Basley


The purpose of this presentation is to compare and contrast current techniques, and new technology that may be used to aid in early detection of oral cancer.


“34,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 8,000 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. Of those 34,000 newly diagnosed individuals, only half will be alive in 5 years. This is a number which has not significantly improved in decades”. As you can see there is a great need for improvement in our techniques for detecting cancer.

We already use some techniques in the dental office right now to help with the early detection of cancer, such as the intra and extra oral exam. This technique is used to examine the soft tissues of the head and neck to reveal abnormal lesions.

Dental offices also regularly perform biopsies in office, or refer patients out for the procedure. This is to aid in diagnosis of cancer, but does not much help with early detection, although some will claim to do so. Punch, excisional, shave, and brush biopsy techniques are the most commonly used.

There are many new technologies out on the Market today to help dental offices make early diagnosis, those of which are available for use in offices are the direct fluorescence and the staining methods. Which are used to illuminate abnormal cells and are easy to administer. Also there are new studies being done on salivary diagnostics and genome testing. These tests can potentially be done on every one as a screening to help diagnosis before any clinical signs occur. These will some day give us a „heads up‟ for those at high risk.

The factor that always comes into play unfortunately is the cost of these wonderful new technologies. We must always ask: will they be effective in detection? Will the cost of the tests scare those in need away from getting it done? Do I need more school or training to perform or evaluate these tests? All of these questions need to be answered before implementing such a test in a private practice office, and should not be answered by someone who has a biased opinion.


Therefore by getting all the facts on these new technologies before righting them off as worthless, or buying to quickly, there can be better benefit for both the patient and the practitioner. The more patients that can have an early diagnosis, the better chance of survival they have. It is our right and responsibility to help our patients get the best treatment by giving them a fighting chance with an early detection.