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Spit test could “significantly improve” oral cancer diagnostics

A simple and painless saliva test may be all it takes to significantly improve oral cancer diagnostics, according to researchers from the US.

Scientists at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine have developed an oral rinse test strip that can be used to detect early signs of the disease. It works by changing colour if protein associated with mouth cancer is detected in saliva deposited onto the strip.

“There is a tremendous need for a simple and painless test for early oral cancer because the majority of patients present at a late stage when cure rates reach only 40 per cent,” said Dr. Elizabeth Franzmann, associate professor of otolaryngology at the school.

Ms Franzman and her team tested out the strips on 300 cancer patients as well as on healthy individuals. The patients rinsed their mouths with a small amount of saline before spitting it out into a test tube.

The saliva solution was then analysed for signs of early onset cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma, which is often linked to alcohol and tobacco use as well as the human papillomavirus.

Researchers found that the strips provided immediate detection of oral cancer and allowed patients to be diagnosed in early stages.

Now the team is planning to roll out the “rinse and spit” test across dental surgeries, primary care practices and pharmacies across the US in the hope that it will become a widespread procedure to detect oral cancer.

In the UK it is estimated that over the next decade around 60,000 people in the UK will be diagnosed with the disease, according to the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF).

Without early detection, the BDHF believes that around of half of this number will die and that’s why the organisation is campaigning for people to take action and be aware of the risks.

Early diagnosis of mouth cancer transforms survival rates from 50 per cent to 90 per cent, making the rinse and spit test potentially life-changing.

Posted by Allie Wright

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