New smartphone scans from Stanford could prevent needless oral cancer deaths

See on Scoop.ithealthcare technology

Thousands of people die needlessly each year in developing countries from oral cancers that could have been detected early with regular dental checkups. But with fewer than one dentist per 100,000 people in many of the world’s rural areas, these checkups are not an option. Now an ultra-low-cost smartphone device being developed at Stanford may enable early diagnosis of these preventable deaths, with no dentist visits required.


Assistant bioengineering professor Manu Prakash, PhD, has developed a way to use smartphones to create detailed images of the oral cavity and screen patients’ mouths for suspicious lesions. The device, which is about the size of a pack of gum, could make it possible for millions of people who live in remote areas to get this imaging done as easily as snapping a photo on a smartphone.


Prakash’s oral cavity scanner, called OScan, consists of a mouth positioner, a circuit board and two rows of fluorescent-light-emitting diodes. It attaches to any smartphone’s built-in camera, and allows an operator — with a quick swipe — to take a high-resolution, panoramic image of a person’s complete mouth cavity. Illuminated by the device’s blue fluorescent light, malignant cancer lesions are easily detected as dark spots.


Images can be sent wirelessly to health workers, dentists or oral surgeons for diagnosis, anywhere in the world. The device is designed for mass production, with an estimated material cost of just a few dollars.

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