New, non-invasive test can help catch pre-cancer cells

By: Manuel Gallegus
By: Manuel Gallegus

LOS ANGELES (CBS) -- Oral cancer is on the rise in the U.S., and it kills twice as many Americans each year as cervical cancer. But a new non-invasive test can help determine if lesions in the mouth contain pre-cancerous cells, allowing them to be removed before they turn into cancer.

A trip to the dentist may have helped Ken Schneider prevent oral cancer...

Patient Kenneth Schneider says, "I saw what I thought was an unusual white spot or a lesion and I decided to have it examined further."

10 percent of Americans have these lesions, which can turn into oral cancer.

While most are not pre-cancerous, the "brush test" can help you be sure
without any cutting.

The dentist scrapes cells off the spot with a brush and sends them to a
lab where they're tested for abnormal or pre-cancerous cells.

Schneider's test came back positive, and he immediately went to an oral surgeon to have the lesion removed, essentially preventing a cancer from occurring.

Schneider says, "It's always better to determine and with with suspicious lesions earlier, rather than later."

Dentists say the test is a great tool, because it can take years before pre-cancerous white spots or lesions in the mouth evolve into cancer, but once they do it's often too late.

Dr. Gabriela Lee with LLM Dental Associates says, "By the time you've diagnosed an oral cancer, a lot of times it's so invasive it gets your tongue. It gets your jaw bone. It gets your lynph nodes."

Only half of all patients diagnosed with oral cancer survive more than five
years. Studies show it's rapidly growing among women, young people and

The American Dental Association has now launched a nationwide ad
campaign urging Americans to ask their dentists for the BrushTest.

Mark Rutenberg with Oral Cancer Prevention International says, "The good news is, if you go to your dentist once or twice a year, you won't get oral cancer."

It's a simple solution to prevent a life threatening disease.

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