It would be possible to diagnose cancer through testing saliva samples, U.S. researchers have found.
According to findings published in the latest issue of the General Dentistry, a journal of the Academy of General Dentistry, protein levels in saliva have a great potential to assist in the diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care of breast cancer.
Besides salivary testing has some advantages over blood testing. Saliva is a clear, colorless liquid, while blood undergoes changes in color, which might affect test results. Saliva collection is safe (no needle punctures), non-invasive, and can be collected without causing a patient any pain.
Also to be noted is that the required saliva samples can be collected without much of a hassle by dentists during routine visits.
The Academy's Vice-President Paula Jones says, "Since a patient visits the dentist more frequently than their physician, this diagnostic tool could be very effective in the hands of the general dentist."
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women in the United States. In 2006, the American Cancer Society estimated that there would be 212,920 new cases of invasive breast cancer, and in that year 40,970 women would die from it. Many women's lives could be saved if this cancer is diagnosed earlier.
It is in that context saliva testing becomes crucial. It is being envisaged as the first line of defence.
If the salivary screening shows a positive result, the next step would be to go for a mammogram or other imaging test. Only then it would be possible to determine in which breast the cancer is located.
This method of early diagnosis is not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Once the approval is received there would be greater scope for collaboration between dentists and physicians in detecting cancer, it has been pointed out.