Cancer Detection at the Stroke of a Pen

pen to detect cancer

The MasSpec Pen rapidly and accurately detects cancer in humans during surgery, helping improve treatment and reduce the chances of cancer recurrence. Credit: University of Texas at Austin

A healthy lifestyle is usually thought of in terms of physical activity and eating well. While this is true, there are other components that are equally as important for an overall healthy lifestyle. Physical impairment and aesthetic issues can sometimes cause anxiety and problems with motion, making it difficult to partake in exercise. Carmel Healthy Living believes in the whole person approach to healthy living, which includes physical and mental well-being.

Cancer surgery can sometimes cause impairment and changes in physical appearance, due to the extent of the surgery. Making sure all the cancer is removed is important, as the current standard test often used during surgery to evaluate the cells can be slow and sometimes inaccurate. This can lead to the unnecessary removal of healthy tissue, in order to ensure the total removal of abnormal cells.

However, a team at The University of Texas at Austin has recently developed a handheld instrument called the MasSpec Pen that can test cells and give results during surgery in 10 seconds. Initial clinical testing indicates an accuracy of 96 percent. This research was presented in the Science Translational Medicine journal.

The MasSpec Pen can be used during surgery to actually test the cells directly, simply by touching the pen to the areas of concern and extracting water. The pen immediately evaluates the information from the extracted moisture and displays the results on the actual pen. The surgeon then knows exactly which tissue to remove.

The areas between normal and abnormal cells may have combined cell compositions, which can make it difficult to get accurate results from testing the cells. The MasSpec Pen was able to detect the cancerous cells in these regions with the same accuracy as the more separated areas.

Having such a test available will logically lead to less extensive surgery. More extensive surgery can result in problems arising later, even if they are not cancer related. A bigger chance for infection is present, and reconstructive surgery may be required. Keeping these negative results to a minimum is conducive to mental well-being.

As this diagnostic tool increases the success rate for the entire removal of all abnormal cells dramatically, patients who have benefited from its use will feel more confident in their outlook on life. Here in Carmel, just as in other cities, healthy living is as much a frame of mind as it is a way of living. The whole self needs to be considered and maintained. Living a confident life after cancer surgery is important, and any device that leads to a better, happier and healthier outcome is a welcome invention.