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Oral Pathology

Oral cancer exam

According to research conducted by the American Cancer society, more than 30,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year and of those, more than 7,000 result in the death of the patient. Oral cancer can often be detected in its early stages with an oral cancer screening exam. There are many different places in the oral cavity and maxillofacial region where oral cancers can occur, including:

  • lips

  • mouth

  • tongue

  • salivary glands

  • oropharyngeal region (throat)

  • gums

  • face

Reasons to get an oral cancer examination

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 an oral cancer exam, we will thoroughly examine the maxillofacial and oral regions for signs of pathologic changes. The following signs will be investigated during a routine oral cancer exam:

  • Red patches and sores – Red or white patches on the floor of the mouth, the front and sides of the tongue, the cheeks, or the gums that fail to heal can be indicative of pathologic (cancerous) changes.

  • Leukoplakia – A white or gray lesion that can appear anywhere inside the mouth. Leukoplakia can be cancerous, or may become cancerous without treatment.

  • Lumps – Soreness, lumps, or the general thickening of tissue anywhere in the mouth can indicate pathological problems.

It is important to note that approximately 75 percent of oral cancers are linked with modifiable behaviours such as smoking, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption.

Oral cancer exams, diagnosis, and treatment

The oral cancer exam is completely painless. During the visual examination, we look for abnormalities and feel the face, glands, and neck for unusual bumps. If abnormalities, lesions, or lumps are apparent, we may perform a biopsy. A biopsy is the removal or partial removal of abnormal tissue. The sample is sent to the University of Toronto’s Department of Oral Pathology for microscopic evaluation. Results usually take one or two weeks and we will review our findings with you and your referring dentist.

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