Out of nearly 90,000 cases of oral cancer detected each year in India country, more than half the population dies in the same year owing to late detection. Early detection of neoplastic changes in the oral cavity is the only solution to reduce mortality rates and improve the quality of life of patients.
Moreover, oral cancer screening is usually conducted using conventional oral examination with a torch or mobile phone camera. However, it is not easy to visually distinguish between benign and premalignant sites within a potentially malignant lesion. Inflammation or irritation can often resemble premalignant conditions, making visual identification subjective. Although various oral cancer detection devices are available, these are subjective, not very accurate, and expensive.
To ensure an accurate diagnosis of the grade of cancer, the biopsy sample has to be taken from the most malignant site in the lesion. Even experienced clinicians find it difficult to locate the optimal site for a biopsy based on conventional oral examination. This can lead to multiple biopsies, increased expenditure, and false-negative reports, which can delay diagnosis and damage outcomes.
When Dr. Subhash Narayanan was twelve years old, his mother was wrongly diagnosed with head and neck cancer. The aggressive radiation therapy from this misdiagnosis left her bedridden for more than five years, severely depleting her quality of life. It has been more than 50 years since his mother’s misdiagnosis, but technology has not advanced enough to prevent similar incidents from occurring. Doctors still rely on subjective methods to arrive at a diagnosis.
Dr. Narayanan’s deeply personal wish for better diagnostic tools was his motivation for setting up Sascan – a technology start-up on a mission to develop affordable screening devices for early detection of cancer.
OralScan is an optical imaging multimodal device for the early detection of pre-cancerous lesions of the oral cavity. The device uses an optical system with custom-built software and algorithms for tissue analysis. It enables the physician to visualise and discriminate between healthy and potentially malignant sites before they perform a biopsy.
The diagnostic advantages of OralScan include non-invasive in vivo procedures and services, wide-field imaging of oral cavity, utilisation of a cloud-based machine learning algorithm for real-time feedback on tissue status and application of oxygenated haemoglobin (HbO2) absorption maps for biopsy guidance.
The company’s proprietary software makes it intuitive and easy to use in the clinical environment. Health workers can be easily trained to operate the instrument, gather patient data and share the screening report with clinicians for follow-up. It is also useful in assessing the grade of cancer at the point of care with the help of a machine learning algorithm.
The device has 97% sensitivity and 92% specificity. Sascan Meditech has already obtained CDSCO approval, CE certification and ISO 13485 certification for OralScan.
False-negative reports are quite common in detecting oral cancers. Patients may have to undergo multiple biopsies, which is a big financial burden for poor families. The delayed diagnosis also increases mortality risk. OralScan could eliminate the issue of false-negative reporting and significantly reduce the risk of death.
So far, OralScan has reached 8 states in India and touched the lives of more than 1,000 people.
Subhash is the Founder and CEO of Sascan Meditech. He is passionate about intertwining engineering with medicine to produce insights that enhance the clinical experience and benefit society.
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