Handheld device helps spot oral cancer

The Visually Enhanced Lesion Scope (dubbed VELscope) - a handheld device that emits blue light - is useful for detecting oral cancer, Canadian researchers report in the Journal of Biomedical Optics.

One of the main problems with oral cancer, lead investigator Dr. Pierre M. Lane told Reuters Health, “has been identifying changes in the mouth that require referral to oral medicine specialists for assessment and treatment.”

The VELscope, he added, “was developed to provide a simple, handheld device for dentists and other health professionals to help in such decision making, by helping them to identify cancers and pre-cancers that would otherwise not be detected.”

Lane, at the British Columbia Research Center, Vancouver, and colleagues conducted a pilot study of the VELscope, which uses blue light to cause fluorescence in oral tissue. Normal and abnormal tissues show different responses.

The researchers tested the device in 44 patients with a history of oral cancer or precancerous lesions. The device was nearly 100 percent accurate in distinguishing these abnormalities from healthy nearby tissue.

The poor prognosis with oral cancer, concluded Lane, is “largely due to the late identification of the disease. Early detection is a key factor in improving the incidence of this disease and the quality of life for those affected.”

The researchers are currently conducting a larger follow-up study of the device.

SOURCE: Journal of Biomedical Optics, March/April 2006.

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD