Mouthwash Could Spot Cancer

'Swish-and-spit' test to spot head and neck cancers
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 1, 2008 7:00 AM CST
Smokers and users of smokeless tobacco are at the highest risk of getting mouth and neck cancers. A new mouth rinse could help doctors spot these cancers early. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, file)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Scientists are working on a mouth rinse that could save lives by detecting head and neck cancers early, Reuters reports. A cheap and easy "swish-and-spit" saliva test could turn up cells containing the altered genes associated with these cancers. Head and neck cancers can often be cured, but early detection is essential.

Doctors know who they have to screen for these cancers—tobacco users and heavy drinkers, generally older ones. "The problem is that it's sometimes difficult to diagnose until it's at its late stages and difficult to treat and cure," a researcher said. Head and neck cancers kill 13,000 Americans every year.