Oral Pathology

Oral Cancer Exam

The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and coral pink in color. Any alteration in this appearance could be a warning sign for a pathological process. The most serious of these is oral cancer. The following can be signs at the beginning of a pathologic process or cancerous growth:

  • Reddish patches (erythroplakia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth.
  • A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily.
  • A lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth.
  • Chronic sore throat or hoarseness. Difficulty in chewing or swallowing.

These changes can be detected on the lips, cheeks, palate, and gum tissue around the teeth, tongue, face and/or neck. Pain does not always occur with pathology, and curiously, is not often associated with oral cancer. However, any patient with facial and/or oral pain without an obvious cause or reason may also be at risk for oral cancer.

We would recommend performing an oral cancer self-examination monthly and remember that your mouth is one of your body’s most important warning systems. Do not ignore suspicious lumps or sores. If a concerning area, ie- growth or lesion, is present in the mouth the surgeon will most likely recommend a biopsy procedure. A biopsy is a small surgery removing a sampling of the tissues. The tissues are then sent for examination under a microscope by a pathologist to evaluate the cells and determine what has caused changes to the tissues. Pathologic examination of a biopsy can determine whether a lesion is benign or malignant. On occasion additional surgery maybe indicated to remove all the diseased tissues.