Cancer is a life-threatening disease that has claimed the lives of many people worldwide. With the current diagnostic methods, it is hard to determine cancer at an early stage, due to its versatile nature and lack of genomic biomarkers. The rapid development of biophotonics has emerged as a potential tool in cancer detection and diagnosis. Using the fluorescence, scattering, and absorption characteristics of cells and tissues, it is possible to detect cancer at an early stage. The diagnostic techniques addressed in this review are highly sensitive to the chemical and morphological changes in the cell and tissue during disease progression. These changes alter the fluorescence signal of the cell/tissue and are detected using spectroscopy and microscopy techniques including confocal and two-photon fluorescence (TPF). Further, second harmonic generation (SHG) microscopy reveals the morphological changes that occurred in non-centrosymmetric structures in the tissue, such as collagen. Again, Raman spectroscopy is a non-destructive method that provides a fingerprinting technique to differentiate benign and malignant tissue based on Raman signal. Photoacoustic microscopy and spectroscopy of tissue allow molecule-specific detection with high spatial resolution and penetration depth. In addition, terahertz spectroscopic studies reveal the variation of tissue water content during disease progression. In this review, we address the applications of spectroscopic and microscopic techniques for cancer detection based on the optical properties of the tissue. The discussed state-of-the-art techniques successfully determines malignancy to its rapid diagnosis.
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