Oral Cancer Exam

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 often be diagnosed with an annual cancer exam. If caught early, oral cancer can be effectively treated.

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 from an Oral Cancer Exam

The oral cancer examination is completely painless. Dr. Rodriguez-Ortiz and Dr. Kiven will look for abnormalities and may feel the face, glands, and neck for unusual bumps. 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 easily, 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 pathological signs, and will be examined.

If abnormalities are apparent, Drs. Rodriguez-Ortiz or Kiven will refer you to an Oral Medicine Specialist &/or an Oromaxilofacial Surgeon for  diagnosis and management. Treatment options vary according to the precise diagnosis, but may include: excision, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

It is also important to note that over 75% of oral cancers are linked with avoidable behaviours such as smoking, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption. Drs. Rodriguez-Ortiz or Kiven can provide you with literature and options about quitting dangerous behaviors such as tobacco use.