Mary Ann Hanlon, DDS, MS
Practice Limited to Periodontics

Oral Cancer Exam

According to research conducted by the American Cancer Society, more than 30,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year.  Approximately 75% of these are linked to modifiable behaviors, including smoking, using smokeless tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption.  Treatment is most effective when the condition is diagnosed as early as possible.  Since the early stages of the disease are typicaly asymptomatic, the screening examinations provided by your periodontist/general dentist/dental hygienist are extremely important. 

There are many places in which oral cancers commonly occur, including:

  • Lips
  • Mouth
  • Tongue
  • Salivary Glands
  • Oropharyngeal Region (throat)
  • Gums

The following signs will be investigated during a routine oral cancer exam:

  • Red patches and sores – Red patches on the floor of the mouth, inside the cheeks, the front and sides of the tongue and slow healing sores that bleed easily;

  • Leukoplakia – White or gray lesions that can appear anywhere inside the mouth;

  • Lumps – Lumps or general thickening of tissue anywhere in the throat or mouth;

Oral cancer exams, diagnosis and treatment

The oral cancer examination is painless.  Your periodontist/dentist/dental hygienist will look for lesions and feel your glands and neck for unusual lumps.  If abnormalities are detected, Dr. Hanlon will remove some (if the lesion is large) or all (if the lesion is small) of it and submit it for microscopic examination.  A summary of the findings (biopsy report) will be provided to the patient, dentist and physician (if indicated).  Additional treatment, if indicated, depends upon the precise diagnosis, and can include further excision, radiation and/or chemotherapy.   

If you have any questions or concerns about oral cancer, please ask your periodontist, dentist or dental hygienist.


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