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 (erythroplasia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth or tongue.
- A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily. Ulcers that dont heal after 2 weeks should be professionally evaluated for possible excision and biopsy
- A lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth.
- Facial swellings that dont go away in 10-14 days or increases in size should be evaluated. This is especially true if the swelling is increasing in size rapidly or over a short period of time
- Difficulty in chewing or swallowing due to pain from a lesion, growth or mass, you should be evaluated for possible excision/biopsy. If the lesion or mass interrupts ability to chew, immediate evaluation and possible biopsy is recommended.
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. Oral cancer often does not cause pain. However, any patient with facial and/or oral pain without an obvious cause or reason may also be at risk for oral cancer. Risk factors for oral cancer include tobacco use and alcohol use. Oral cancer can occur in patients without use of either tobacco or alcohol.
We would recommend performing an oral cancer self-examination monthly. Your mouth is one of your body’s most important warning systems. Do not ignore suspicious lumps or sores. A biopsy is a small procedure where a small sample of tissue is taken and sent to a pathologist to examine and help arrive at a diagnosis. This is the only sure way to ensure a lump, bump or suspicious looking tissue is not malignant or cancerous.