Dentists now have an easy painfree way to detect oral cancer at its earliest stages. Cytobrush biopsy, is a technique which underwent clinical trials at the University of PhiladelphiaSchool of Dental Medicine that showed it to be a significant advance over previous cytology (PAP smear-type) tests.
According to Martin S. Greenberg, professor and chairman or oral medicine early detection is our most important weapon in our fight against oral cancer. The survival rate for this prevalent cancer is only 40 per cent overall, but survival rates increase to greater than 80 per cent if the cancer is found early. With the engineers and cytologists at Oral Scan Systems, a New York-based health devices company, a dentist who finds an area of concern runs a small round brush - similar to a mascara wand over the suspicious lesion.
"The bristles are like those on a toothbrush," Greenberg said. "They can penetrate and get a better sampling of cells than the old scraping technique." The sample is sent to a lab where it is scanned using advanced computer technology. Suspicious slides are tagged for further evaluation by a technician. The computer is so exacting, Green berg said, that the false negative rate, which was as high as 30 per cent using the scraping method, dropped to nil in the clinical trials.