Saliva testing could detect oral cavity cancer earlier

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Testing for oral cavity cancer may get a lot easier soon.

The University of Washington says it’s a condition that is often hard to diagnose and can be a very painful experience for patients.

“The way it’s diagnosed is typically with a biopsy, and that biopsy can be painful,” said Dr. Brittany Barber, a head and neck surgeon at UW Medicine. “Other diagnostic techniques would be very useful and a lot more comfortable for the patient.”

Two companies developed swab-testing diagnostic meant to identify oral and throat cancer biomarkers.

Neither has won full U.S. approval, but one earned the FDA’s breakthrough device designation that is sold by the manufacturer.