Oral Cancer Screening

According to the American Cancer Society, over 30,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year, with over 7000 of these cases resulting in the death of the patient. Fortunately, oral cancer can be diagnosed with an annual cancer exam.

 Oral cancer is a pathologic process, which begins by producing no symptoms making it hard to recognize without an exam. There are many types of oral cancer, including teratoma, adenocarcinoma and melanoma. The most common form of oral cancer is malignant squamous cell carcinoma, which typically originates in the lip and mouth tissue. There are many other places in which oral cancers occur, including: the tongue, salivary glands, throat, gums, and face.

WHAT TO EXPECT

The oral cancer examination is completely painless. We will look for abnormalities and feel the face, glands, and neck for unusual bumps. Lasers may be used to highlight pathologic changes, and can “look” below the surface for spots and lesions invisible to the naked eye. Some of the signs that will be investigated are red patches and sores. Red patches on the floor of the mouth, or the front of the tongue, and bleeding sores which fail to heal easier, can be indicative of cancerous changes. Leukoplakia is a hardened white or gray, slightly raised lesion that can appear inside the mouth, and may be cancerous. Signs of these will be examined as well. Finally, soreness, lumps or the general thickening of tissue anywhere in the throat or mouth can signal pathologic signs, and will be examined.

If abnormalities, lesions, lumps, or leukoplakia are apparent, We will implement a treatment plan that is right for you. 

It is also important to note that over 75% of oral cancers are linked with avoidable behaviors such as smoking, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption. 

The warning signs of oral cancer can be summarized as follows:

  • an ulceration in the mouth that does not heal (most common symptom)
  • an area of leukoplakia (white in color) or erythoplakia (red in color) on the gingiva, tongue, tonsil, or oral mucosa that persists
  • a lump or thickening in the cheek
  • a sore throat or globus sensation (feeling that something is caught in the throat)
  • difficulty chewing with or without dysphagia
  • increasing trismus and or decreasing tongue mobility
  • sensory changes in the tongue or other oral structures
  • swelling of edentulous areas that cause dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable
  • increasing tooth mobility or pain associated with the teeth or jaw
  • a lump or mass in the neck
  • weight loss