Should we use a 10-minute saliva test that can detect cancer at home?

By A.K. Matai

“U.S. scientists working on inexpensive, 10-minute saliva test that can detect cancer at home” initially appeared quite exciting but reading the article left me with doubts about the scope of this test and the lack of counselling that would accompany the results.

David Wong developed a test to assess fragments of lung cancer RNA in saliva by looking at certain biomarkers. He claims that the test is “100% accurate” but a limitation of all genetic tests is that you can only find the markers you are looking for. Since you only get what you pay for, Wong’s $30 saliva test will not be looking for a wide variety of biomarkers. If the test is used to diagnose the cancer as soon as it develops, there is a high chance of missing certain mutations that might make it particularly aggressive or drug resistant providing false reassurance to the patient. Wong boasts that the test is so simple that it could be carried out at a pharmacy or at home. This in itself is inherently problematic. At both these easily accessible places, there is a lack of counselling to explain the limitations of the test and to provide guidance on the patient’s options which could easily compromise a patients’ emotional wellbeing.

Such a fast inexpensive saliva test has great potential but it compromises a patients’ wellbeing due to its limited scope and absence of counselling resources. For now, in my opinion, a blood test or biopsy are currently the only acceptable alternatives to this test.

What are your opinions on the 10 minute saliva cancer test? Let us know, down below!

Sources:

U.S. scientists working on inexpensive, 10-minute saliva test that can detect cancer at home

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