Oral Cancer and Precancerous Mouth Lesions: Importance of Early Detection and Treatment

05/09/24 10:00 AM

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Understanding Oral Cancer and Precancerous Mouth Lesions: Importance of Early Detection and Treatment

Oral cancer refers to cancer that develops in any part of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, gums, and roof or floor. It typically develops due to abnormal cell growth that forms a malignant tumor. If left untreated, oral cancer can spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening. 

Precancerous mouth lesions, on the other hand, are abnormal growths in the mouth that have the potential to develop into cancer. Although they are not cancerous yet, they may turn cancerous if left untreated. Early detection and treatment of precancerous lesions can help prevent the development of oral cancer. 

Both oral cancer and precancerous mouth lesions are serious health concerns that require timely diagnosis and treatment. Traditional biopsy methods are often invasive, expensive, and stressful for patients. However, the recent development of a noninvasive and low-cost test to detect oral cancer and monitor precancerous lesions provides new hope for early and accurate diagnosis.

The Importance of Regular Dental Check-Ups in Detecting and Preventing Oral Cancer

Regular dental check-ups are essential for maintaining good oral health. They help prevent tooth decay and gum disease and allow your dentist to check for warning signs of oral cancer and monitor any precancerous lesions.

Oral cancer is a severe condition that can be life-threatening if not detected and treated early. The good news is that when caught in its early stages, oral cancer is highly treatable. That’s why it’s crucial to visit your dentist regularly to ensure that any signs of oral cancer or precancerous lesions are detected early, giving you the best chance for successful treatment.

During a routine dental exam, your dentist will carefully examine your mouth, throat, and tongue for any abnormalities or suspicious areas. They may also use a unique tool called a VELscope to help detect hidden lesions that may not be visible to the naked eye.

If your dentist finds any signs of oral cancer or precancerous lesions, they may recommend further testing or refer you to a specialist for a biopsy. In some cases, early treatment may involve removing the lesion or performing a procedure to prevent it from turning into cancer.

In conclusion, regular dental check-ups are not just about maintaining good oral health, they can also be a crucial step in preventing serious conditions like oral cancer. So, don’t skip your dental appointments—they could potentially save your life!

Noninvasive and Low-Cost Test Developed by Researchers to Detect Oral Cancer and Monitor Precancerous Lesions

Oral cancers and precancerous mouth lesions pose a significant challenge when it comes to early and accurate diagnosis. Traditional biopsy methods are invasive, expensive, and stressful for patients, and they may not be practical for repeated screenings of the same lesion. 

However, researchers at the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine have developed a revolutionary noninvasive and low-cost test to detect oral cancer, monitor precancerous lesions, and determine when a biopsy is necessary. Their study’s results were published in the journal Cell Reports Medicine on March 4th, bringing new hope for early and accurate diagnosis without the stress and invasiveness of traditional biopsy methods.

The test is based on a scoring system that measures the levels of two proteins in cells taken from suspicious oral lesions of patients at dental clinics or the ear, nose, and throat department at the University Hospitals (UH). One of the proteins, human beta-defensin three (hBD-3), is highly expressed in early-stage oral cancer, while the other protein (hBD-2) remains low or unchanged. The ratio of hBD-3 to hBD-2 in the lesion site generates the beta-defensin index (BDI) score.

The BDI score is used to determine whether the patient has cancer. A score above a predetermined threshold indicates cancer, while a score below that threshold suggests that the lesion is benign. Protein levels and the BDI score can be easily measured in a lab.

The BDI score was independently validated using identical protocols at CWRU/UH, the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, and the West Virginia University School of Dentistry. This test can reduce the need for biopsies in primary care clinics by 95%, enabling clinicians to identify patients who need a biopsy. 

According to Aaron Weinberg, the study’s lead researcher and the chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at the Case Western Reserve School of Dental Medicine, the lab-based approach can also be used in developing countries where oral cancer is prevalent and pathology services are lacking.

Head and neck cancer (HNC), of which oral cancer accounts for about 90%, is the seventh-most prevalent malignancy worldwide, with developing nations witnessing a rise in its incidence. According to the National Institutes of Health, HNC makes up about 5% of all cancers worldwide and 3% of all malignancies in the US. Every year, there are about 640,000 cases of HNC, resulting in about 350,000 deaths worldwide, mainly among socioeconomically disadvantaged populations and underserved communities.

The positive data from the lab-based approach have led to the development of a point-of-care (POC) device in collaboration with Umut Gurkan, the Wilbert J. Austin Professor of Engineering at the Case School of Engineering. The POC diagnostic approach measures the protein ratio and provides results within 30 minutes, making it ideal for use in a clinic.

The team is working with Case Western Reserve’s Technology Transfer Office to patent the device, which would pave the way for possible manufacturing and clinical validation.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Cancer Institute, Case Coulter Translational Research Partnership, and Ohio Third Frontier Technology Validation and Start-Up Fund supported the discovery, clinical validation studies, and POC technology development. Source: ScienceDaily

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