Oral Cancer Examination
According to research conducted by the American Cancer Society , more
than 30,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year. More than 7,000 of these cases result in the death of the
patient. The good news is that oral cancer can easily be diagnosed with an annual oral cancer exam, and effectively
treated when caught in its earliest stages.
Oral cancer is a pathologic process which begins with an asymptomatic stage during which the usual cancer signs may
not be readily noticeable. This makes the oral cancer examinations performed an oral surgeon critically important.
Oral cancers can be of varied histologic types such as teratoma, adenocarcinoma and melanoma. The most common type of
oral cancer is the malignant squamous cell carcinoma. This oral cancer type usually originates in lip and mouth
There are many different places in the oral cavity and maxillofacial region in which oral cancers commonly occur,
- Salivary Glands
- Oropharyngeal Region (throat)
Reasons for oral cancer examinations
It is important to note that around 75 percent of oral cancers are linked with modifiable behaviors such as smoking,
tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption. Your surgeon can provide literature and education on making lifestyle
changes and smoking cessation.
When oral cancer is diagnosed in its earliest stages, treatment is generally very effective. Any noticeable
abnormalities in the tongue, gums, mouth or surrounding area should be evaluated by a health professional as quickly
as possible. During the oral cancer exam, the oral surgeon will be scrutinizing the maxillofacial and oral regions
carefully for signs of pathologic changes.
The following signs will be investigated during a routine oral cancer exam:
- Red patches and sores – Red patches on the floor of the mouth, the front and sides of the
tongue, white or pink patches which fail to heal and slow healing sores that bleed easily can be indicative of
pathologic (cancerous) changes.
- Leukoplakia – This is a hardened white or gray, slightly raised lesion that can appear
anywhere inside the mouth. Leukoplakia can be cancerous, or may become cancerous if treatment is not sought.
- Lumps – Soreness, lumps or the general thickening of tissue anywhere in the throat or
mouth can signal pathological problems.
Oral cancer exams, diagnosis and treatment
The oral cancer examination is a completely painless process. During the visual part of the examination, the surgeon
will look for abnormality and feel the face, glands and neck for unusual bumps. If abnormalities, lesions, leukoplakia
or lumps are apparent, the surgeon may suggest a biopsy of the area be performed. The biopsy includes
removing a small piece (incisional) or the entire lesion (excisional). The the tissue is sent to an Oral
Pathologist, whose is specially trained to evaluate tissues of the oral area. A definitive diagnosis will be made and
the surgeon will inform the patient if additional procedures or treatments are necessary.
If you have any questions or concerns about oral cancer, please contact our office .