Brush Biopsy: A New Era in Oral Cancer Detection

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Your routine dental visit might soon include a quick and painless evaluation for oral cancer, thanks to a groundbreaking invention by researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago. This article will explore how this innovative brush biopsy technique could revolutionize oral cancer diagnosis and save lives.

What Is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer develops in any part of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, gums, floor of the mouth, and the roof of the mouth. Here are some key facts about oral cancer:


Oral cancer can develop in various forms, with the most common type being squamous cell carcinoma, which originates in the thin, flat cells lining the oral cavity.

Risk Factors:

Several factors increase the risk of developing oral cancer, including tobacco use (smoking or chewing), excessive alcohol consumption, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, sun exposure (for lip cancer), poor oral hygiene, and a family history of oral cancer.


Symptoms of oral cancer may include persistent mouth sores that don’t heal, red or white patches in the mouth, unusual bleeding or pain in the mouth, difficulty swallowing or chewing, persistent hoarseness, and a lump or thickening in the cheek.

Early Detection:

Early detection of oral cancer is crucial for successful treatment and improved outcomes. Regular dental check-ups and screenings with VELScope enhanced oral cancer detection system can help identify suspicious lesions or abnormalities in the mouth.

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Diagnosis of oral cancer typically involves a thorough examination of the mouth and may include additional tests such as biopsies, imaging studies (X-rays, CT scans, MRI), and laboratory tests to determine the extent and stage of the cancer.


Treatment options for oral cancer depend on the stage, location, and extent of the disease but may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy. Treatment plans are often customized based on individual patient factors and preferences.


The prognosis for oral cancer varies depending on factors such as the stage of the disease at diagnosis, the location of the tumor, the patient’s overall health, and the effectiveness of treatment. Early-stage oral cancers generally have a better prognosis than advanced-stage cancers.


Adopting healthy lifestyle habits can help reduce the risk of oral cancer. This includes avoiding tobacco use, limiting alcohol consumption, practicing good oral hygiene, using sun protection for the lips, and getting vaccinated against HPV.


Regular oral cancer screenings are recommended for individuals at higher risk, including tobacco users, heavy drinkers, individuals with a family history of oral cancer, and those with prior oral HPV infection. Screening may involve visual examinations, physical examinations, and additional tests as needed.


Coping with a diagnosis of oral cancer can be challenging, both physically and emotionally. Patients may benefit from support groups, counseling services, and resources offered by healthcare providers, cancer organizations, and community support networks.

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Oral Cancer Statistics

Here are some statistics related to oral cancer:


Oral cancer accounts for approximately 3% of all cancers diagnosed globally each year.

Global Burden:

Over 540,000 new cases of oral cancer are reported annually worldwide.


Oral cancer causes an estimated 380,000 deaths worldwide each year, making it one of the leading causes of cancer-related mortality.

Survival Rates:

The overall 5-year survival rate for oral cancer is approximately 65%. However, survival rates vary depending on factors such as the stage of the disease at diagnosis, the tumor’s location, and the treatment’s effectiveness.

Age and Gender:

Oral cancer tends to occur more frequently in older individuals, with the majority of cases diagnosed in people over the age of 40. Men are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer compared to women, with a male-to-female ratio of about 2:1.

Geographic Variation:

The incidence of oral cancer varies geographically, with higher rates reported in regions where tobacco and alcohol consumption are prevalent, as well as areas with high rates of HPV infection.

The Brush Biopsy Breakthrough

Developed by Guy Adami and Dr. Joel Schwartz of the UIC College of Dentistry, the brush biopsy test offers a non-invasive and efficient method for detecting oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). Unlike traditional surgical biopsies, which require invasive procedures and may deter patients from seeking timely care, the brush biopsy simplifies the process by gently brushing the affected area.

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How It Works:

The diagnostic kit utilizes a small brush to collect cells from suspicious lesions in the mouth. These cells are then analyzed for genetic signals of OSCC, providing accurate results with over 90% accuracy. Moreover, the test targets early-stage cancers, ensuring timely intervention and treatment.

Advantages Over Traditional Methods:

Compared to surgical biopsies, the brush biopsy offers several advantages. It eliminates the need for invasive procedures, reduces the risk of spreading cancerous cells, and provides targeted tissue sampling for precise diagnosis and treatment planning. Additionally, it can detect OSCC in high-risk populations, such as Black men, who often face disparities in survival rates.

Commercialization and Future Applications:

To bring this groundbreaking brush biopsy technology to dental clinics worldwide, Adami and Schwartz formed Arphion Diagnostics and are actively seeking commercialization partnerships. Beyond OSCC, the brush biopsy holds the potential for diagnosing other oral diseases using unique microRNA signatures, promising a profound impact on oral healthcare.

Brush Biopsy Conclusion

The brush biopsy represents a significant advancement in oral cancer screening, offering a simple, non-invasive, and highly accurate alternative to traditional methods. With its potential to detect OSCC in its earliest stages, this innovative technique has the power to save lives and improve outcomes for patients worldwide.

Author Bio

Cosmetic Dentist Marielaina Perrone DDS

Dr. Marielaina Perrone is a highly respected and experienced dentist in Henderson, Nevada, with over two decades of expertise in providing quality dental care to her patients. She graduated from Stony Brook University School Of Dental Medicine and has completed advanced training in cosmetic dentistry, implant dentistry, and orthodontics.

Dr. Perrone is committed to staying up-to-date with the latest advancements in dentistry and continuing education to provide the best possible care for her patients.

Dr. Perrone takes a patient-centered approach and believes in personalized treatment plans tailored to each individual’s unique needs and preferences. Her gentle and compassionate demeanor creates a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere for patients during their dental appointments.

Aside from dentistry, Dr. Perrone enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, and cooking. She also volunteers her time and expertise to various charitable organizations in her community.

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