A new test for oral cancer is being developed by researchers at the University of Sheffield and the city's Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
The new test involves a swab being wiped around the mouth to pick up the cells and placed on a nano-bio-chip card and slotted in a credit card-like machine and analysed. The machine takes around eight minutes to access the data and produce a result.
The international research team has been awarded $2 million from the USA's National Institutes of Health to develop the test
In comparison the current test means the patient will go under local anaesthetic and a small skin sample taken and sent away for pathologist testing, taking over a week to complete the process.
Professor Martin Thornhill who is leading the research team in Sheffield explains how the health service will benefit from the technology which is being tested: "This technology will make it easier for us to screen suspicious lesions in the mouth and separate non-cancerous lesions from those where there is a risk of cancer and those where cancer has already developed.
"We have just started to recruit patients to a study that is designed to ensure that the new technology is at least as good as the old method at distinguishing these different types of lesion. Ultimately, dentists and doctors may be able to use this technology to check suspicious lesions in the mouth and reassure the vast majority of patients that they haven't got cancer without even having to send them to the hospital."
The technology is also being considered for future research projects, including heart attacks and diabetes. The machine to detect oral cancer is also being tested and developed in Africa for diagnosing patients with HIV and working out the best treatments.
The new equipment which is being trialled for two years at the Charles Clifford Dental Hospital in Sheffield will bring many benefits which include waiting times being cut and reduction in NHS costs. The project is being trialled to ensure that that the analysis and diagnosis is as sensitive and accurate as the current method.