Oral Cancer Exam

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 40,000 cases of oral/pharyngeal cancer are diagnosed each year, with over 7500 of these cases resulting in the death of the patient. Fortunately, oral cancer, if caught early, can be more effectively treated.

Oral cancer may first appear without producing any symptoms, making it hard to recognize without an exam. There are many types of oral cancer, including adenocarcinoma and melanoma, but the most common form of oral cancer is  squamous cell carcinoma. The most common site for oral cancer is the tongue, though it may also appear in other areas of the mouth and throat, including under the tongue, both major and minor salivary glands, as well as the gums, and lips.  In recent years there has been a notable increase in the occurrence of oral cancers in younger patients, related to the prevalence of HPV virus among sexually active adults.

What to Expect

The oral cancer examination is completely painless. Drs. Pollack, Odrich or Sarmiento will look and feel around the mouth and tongue for abnormalities such as unusual bumps, and red and/or white patches. Sores which fail to heal  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 pathologic signs, and will be examined.

If abnormalities, lesions, lumps, or leukoplakia are apparent, Drs. Pollack, Odrich or Sarmiento will discuss with you appropriate options for care.  Some lesions may need to be biopsied, though we also use the Brush Biopsy as a simple and painless screening tool for lesions with a lower degree of suspicion.  We also work with a number of highly qualified specialists if you need referral for a more serious or concerning problem.

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