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FDA Approves Cancer Screening in a Box

The demand for reducing the cost of healthcare is fostering a new generation of accessibility. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the FDA recently approved optical imaging devices, for oral cancers, developed by bioengineers at Rice University. The team explains, in the Journal of Biomedical Optics, that the battery powered device can improve oral cancer screening by using fluorescence. With these features and the low cost, the screening system is an attractive option.

Currently, oral cancer screening is a visual inspection under white light. The problem is that, macroscopically, it's hard to tell the difference between pre-cancerous and benign tissues. Using polarized and fluorescent light, specificity in screening can be improved. Here's how it works: cell components inside the patient’s mouth become visible after applying a fluorescent solution. Then, according to the NIH, a flexible fiber-optic bundle is used to image cells and look for atypical (carcinogenic) changes.

The Rice University team, led by Dr. Rebecca Richards-Kortum, wasn’t the first to introduce fluorescence imaging. Medical facilities in developed countries are using these devices for early detection in the oral cavity, uterine cervix, lung, and skin. But these machines are expensive and require a stable, high-voltage power supply. With LED lighting this new device is low maintenance and affordable. A briefcase, with a rechargeable battery, adds portability to ensure that primary care settings, like your dentist, can offer more effective screening. Richard-Kortum and her team describe the device as being head-mounted for direct visualization by the health care provider. This also allows for digital images of the oral cavity. Richards-Kortum and her team are currently testing the camera for cervical and esophageal cancer screening..

The World Health Organization (WHO) claims there are over 267,000 new cases of oral cancer every year and almost half of those cases result in death. The majority of oral cancer, according to research published in the Journal of Biomedical Optics, is diagnosed at an advanced stage when treatment is more likely to be aggressive and survival rate is low. Two-thirds of the total deaths caused by oral cancer occurs in developing countries. With this new technique mortality of oral cancer can be reduced with the increased availability of screening.

Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Sangeeta Sunny Chettiath

About Sangeeta Sunny Chettiath

MPH / Ohio University / Resident Blogger @TraffickFree

Sangeeta Sunny Chettiath

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