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.
Oral Cancer Exam
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 by the dentist 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 tissues.
There are many different places in the oral cavity and maxillofacial region in which oral cancers commonly occur, including:
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
dentist 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 dentist and dental hygienist will be
scrutinizing the maxillofacial and oral regions carefully for signs of
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.
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 dentist will look for abnormality and feel the face,
glands and neck for unusual bumps. Lasers which can highlight
pathologic changes are also a wonderful tool for oral cancer checks.
The laser can “look” below the surface for abnormal signs and lesions
which would be invisible to the naked eye.
If abnormalities, lesions,
leukoplakia or lumps are apparent, the dentist will implement a
diagnostic impression and treatment plan. In the event that the initial
treatment plan is ineffective, a biopsy of the area will be performed.
The biopsy includes a clinical evaluation which will identify the
precise stage and grade of the oral lesion.
Oral cancer is deemed to be
present when the basement membrane of the epithelium has been broken.
Malignant types of cancer can readily spread to other places in the oral
and maxillofacial regions, posing additional secondary threats.
Treatment methods vary according to the precise diagnosis, but may
include excision, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
During bi-annual check-ups, the
dentist and hygienist will thoroughly look for changes and lesions in
the mouth, but a dedicated comprehensive oral cancer screening should be
performed at least once each year.
If you have any questions or concerns about oral cancer, please ask your dentist or dental hygienist.
You are welcome to schedule an appointment today!