Oral Cancer Exam

According to research conducted by the American Cancer society, more than 30,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year.  More than 7,000 of these cases result in the death of the patient.  The good news is that oral cancer can easily be diagnosed with an annual oral cancer exam, and effectively treated when caught in its earliest stages.

Oral cancer is a pathologic process which begins with an asymptomatic stage during which the usual cancer signs may not be readily noticeable.  This makes the oral cancer examinations performed by the dentist critically important.  Oral cancers can be of varied histologic types such as teratoma, adenocarcinoma and melanoma.  The most common type of oral cancer is the malignant squamous cell carcinoma.  This oral cancer type usually originates in lip and mouth tissues.

There are many different places in the oral cavity and maxillofacial region in which oral cancers commonly occur, including:

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

Reasons for oral cancer examinations

It is important to note that around 75 percent of oral cancers are linked with modifiable behaviors such as smoking, tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption.  Your dentist can provide literature and education on making lifestyle changes and smoking cessation.

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 the oral cancer exam, the dentist and dental hygienist will be scrutinizing the maxillofacial and oral regions carefully for signs of pathologic changes.

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

  • Red patches and sores – Red patches on the floor of the mouth, the front and sides of the tongue, white or pink patches which fail to heal and slow healing sores that bleed easily can be indicative of pathologic (cancerous) changes.

  • Leukoplakia – This is a hardened white or gray, slightly raised lesion that can appear anywhere inside the mouth. Leukoplakia can be cancerous, or may become cancerous if treatment is not sought.

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

Oral cancer exams, diagnosis and treatment

The oral cancer examination is a completely painless process.  During the visual part of the examination, the dentist will look for abnormality and feel the face, glands and neck for unusual bumps.  Lasers which can highlight pathologic changes are also a wonderful tool for oral cancer checks.  The laser can “look” below the surface for abnormal signs and lesions which would be invisible to the naked eye.

If abnormalities, lesions, leukoplakia or lumps are apparent, the dentist will implement a diagnostic impression and treatment plan.  In the event that the initial treatment plan is ineffective, a biopsy of the area will be performed.  The biopsy includes a clinical evaluation which will identify the precise stage and grade of the oral lesion.

Oral cancer is deemed to be present when the basement membrane of the epithelium has been broken.  Malignant types of cancer can readily spread to other places in the oral and maxillofacial regions, posing additional secondary threats.  Treatment methods vary according to the precise diagnosis, but may include excision, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

During bi-annual check-ups, the dentist and hygienist will thoroughly look for changes and lesions in the mouth, but a dedicated comprehensive oral cancer screening should be performed at least once each year.

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

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Testimonials

My husband was in so much pain, and I spoke to Dr. Etessami on the phone, one time on New Years weekend. He immediately told me that he called a prescription in for antibibotics, and cleared his schedule for my husband to see him Monday morning. This dentist understands pain as a fifth vital sign and is probably the best dentist around. Seriously, I think Dr. Etessami is worth every penny. Sometimes you have to pay to have something done correct. After going to dentist after dentist and spending thousands of dollars and my husband would come home and say," $%$#@%, they didn't do anything for me, and now im in more pain!" You can imagine the frustration. He brought a lot of faith back to me about the ethics and morality of doctors. I have a friend that didn't take care of an abcess, and now he's retarded. My husband's infections were so bad, my husband spoke of breathing better after the eight hours in surgery. I believe he saved his life. Dr. Etessami followed up two nights in a row, and said, that he doesn't believ he has to ever go back to see the dentist. Just cosmetic. My husband has been in pain for years, and it has ruled our life. Pain was a 10 , now a 1.Please call him and get it done. Our quality of life is so much better

I have been seeing Rami Etessami for probably 30 years or more for endodontal work and he recently just extracted a wisdom tooth. I have found his office and his care beyond excellent, compassionate and professional. He doesn’t do what he doesn’t have to do. He tries not to do procedures but when he does them he does them with absolutely no error, no complications and is the kindest, most trustworthy man and dentist. I have terrible dental phobia. He has corrected the work of dental errors in the past 30 years so to trust someone takes a lot and I trust him completely.

valerie kelly

Absolutely amazing staff and treatment! Dr Etessami redid a root canal that I had done at a different doctor’s office and was having severe tooth pain. After Dr Etessami treated me the pain was completely gone and the root canal was so easy! Super quick, I almost fell asleep during it I was so comfortable! Highly recommend getting treated here.

Delanie Lowe

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