Anytime you spot a change in your mouth, you should schedule an oral pathology screening. But don’t jump to conclusions and assume oral cancer is the cause — that may not be the case.
Abnormalities in the mouth tissues can be cancerous, but benign conditions can also create lesions and unusual sores. A professional exam done by an expert in pathological conditions can determine the cause of your mouth irregularity. If oral cancer is the cause, you can quickly get treatment and improve your odds of beating the disease.
Non-Cancerous Oral Pathology Conditions
Changes in the mouth can be the result of a range of pathological conditions. If you see a strange spot on your gums, lips, tongue, palate or cheeks, it may be one of these common pathologies:
- Canker sores, brought about by stress, sensitivity, injury, dietary deficiency or allergic response
- Cold sores or fever blisters attributable to the herpes simplex virus
- Thrush, a fungal infection that affects those with compromised immune systems
- Fibromas, benign tumors caused by irritation or injury to the tissues
- Benign bone tumors, triggered by hormones that stimulate growth
Sometimes, pathological conditions aren’t to blame for lesions and sores. Aspirin, beta-blockers, sulfa drugs and other medications can cause irregularities in mouth tissues.
Signs & Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Although many different oral pathology conditions and medications can lead to mouth abnormalities, so can oral cancer. If you notice any of the following, you may have a cancerous growth:
- Red, white or discolored patches
- Lesions that aren’t healing on their own
- Rough spots, lumps or thickened tissues
- Sores that bleed when touched
- Numbness anywhere inside the mouth
- Prolonged hoarseness or sore throat
- Difficulty moving the tongue or swallowing
- Feeling as if something is caught in the throat
Oral cancer is highly treatable when caught early on. If you’re concerned about your symptoms, schedule an immediate oral pathology screening.
Diagnosing Oral Pathology
A professional screening starts with a thorough visual and physical examination of the mouth tissues, jaw and neck.
If the cause of an abnormality is in question, doctors may advise a second screening, scheduled a few weeks later. Or a range of advanced diagnostic tests may be recommended. Exfoliative cytology, toluidine blue staining, fluorescence visualization and brush biopsy are among the procedures that can confirm or rule out an oral cancer diagnosis.
Periodic professional screenings can help protect your oral health. If your last exam was several months ago — or if you see a change in the appearance or feel of the tissues in your mouth — make an appointment at Richmond Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.
Dr. Partridge and Dr. Alderman, our board-certified surgeons, have more than a decade of experience in the diagnosis and treatment of both non-cancerous pathological conditions and oral cancer. For more information on our services, or to schedule a professional oral pathology screening, contact us today.