A Texas A&M researcher may have made significant improvements to diagnosing oral cancer. Currently, physicians must surgically remove tissue through a process called a "biopsy". The limitations with this process is that it relies on the naked eye to look for problematic areas that warrant a biopsy. This can be tricky since a patient's mouth can manifest lesions that may be both benign or precancerous. The noninvasive oral cancer diagnosis avoids the biopsy by combining two types of technology: "fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM)" and "confocal microscopy". FLIM images large areas of oral tissue with UV light to show signs of molecular changes associated with cancer and precancer. Thus, FLIM can be used for screening. Confocal microscopy on the otherhand, is used more for diagnosis. This examines the morphological features of tissue, assessing whether the tissue is cancerous or not.
While this diagnostic procedure is still in the works, it promises improvements for oral cancer diagnosis in the future.