Advances in oral cancer detection

Adv Clin Chem. 2019;91:181-200. doi: 10.1016/bs.acc.2019.03.006. Epub 2019 May 4.


High incidence of oral carcinoma and its late-stage presentation are the major global healthcare issues. The World Health Organization (WHO) has set early diagnosis and prevention of oral cancer as their primary objective. It is important to consider the time of oral screening, as it plays a pivotal role in understanding the disease prognosis. Critical signs and symptoms that can be identified during initial oral screening can improve the chances of patient's survival. Reports suggest that socio-economic factors, lack of public awareness and delays from primary health care centers are few of the major parameters that contribute to patient's mortality and morbidity. Conventional technique of visual examination of the oral lesion can effectively monitor patient mortality when exposed to risk factors. However, several disadvantages limit the clinical utility of this technique. Thus, screening aids that efficiently differentiate between a benign and malignant lesion as well as deliver information about early OSCC can ameliorate the complications associated with oral cancer diagnosis. Recent advances in optical imaging systems, such as tissue-fluorescence imaging and optical coherence tomography have been proved to be considerably efficient. Additionally, extensive research has been directed towards nanoparticle-based immunosensors, DNA analysis, and salivary proteomics. However, lack of proper clinical trials and correlation with biopsy result hinder the usage of these screening techniques in clinics. In this review, we highlight the importance of early diagnosis of oral cancer as well as discuss about the effectiveness and limitations of the recent diagnostic aids. It can be stated that public awareness regarding routine oral examination and employing screening methods that are non-invasive, robust, and economic, would enhance early stage diagnosis of oral cancer and have a positive impact on patient's survival.

Keywords: Diagnosis; Non-invasive; Optical imaging; Oral cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Mouth Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Physical Examination


  • Biomarkers, Tumor