Potential for Early Diagnosis

Researchers from John Hopkins University have found that DNA in patient’s blood samples and saliva samples may indicate cancerous tumors in the head and neck. The researchers feel hopeful that this discovery will provide the healthcare professionals with the ability to detect malignant tumors in the head and neck earlier, and thus increase the chances of the patient having a full recovery from the disease.

The Study

The study was conducted with one hundred participants. In those one hundred patients, the test proved to be able to detect the DNA that is shed from the tumors in the head and neck one hundred percent of the time, and the doctors were able to confirm or rule out malignancies ninety six percent of the time.

The study was performed with ninety three participants who had recently been diagnosed with head or neck cancer. Researchers from John Hopkins University discovered that seventy six percent of those patients had DNA in their saliva that was shed from the tumors.

Forty seven people gave blood and saliva samples to the researchers. The results were that in forty five of those people, the researchers were able to detect head or neck cancer tumors in one of the two samples they provided.

People at Risk of head and Neck Cancer Formation

The people who are at the highest risk of developing head or neck cancers include the following groups:

  • People who smoke tobacco products including cigarettes and cigars
  • People who use smokeless tobacco products including snuff and chewing tobacco
  • People who consume large amounts of alcohol

Where head and neck cancers are most likely to form

Most people who get cancerous head or neck tumors have them:

  • In their mouth
  • On their lips
  • On the front of their tongues
  • On the inside of their cheeks
  • On their gums
  • At the back of their throats
  • On their voice box

What this could mean to healthcare providers

These tests could be used as a diagnostic tool to determine which patients were most likely to need more invasive, or further testing. The test would be easy to perform, they would cost less than the current methods of detection, they would give doctors information they could use to pinpoint cancerous lesions, and their cause.

The number of patients who die from head and neck cancers could be greatly reduced because of the early detection techniques. The sooner you detect a cancerous tumor the greater your chances of recovering completely are.

The cost of health care could be reduced because fewer people would need the more expensive testing to determine the presence of cancerous or benign tumors.

More studies needed

More studies will need to be performed on a larger group of participants before it can be determined how much trust can be placed on these blood and saliva tests. For now, the tests seem to be a great resource for the indication that other tests are required.