Oral Pathology & the Warning Signs for Oral Cancer

Scheduling an oral pathology exam is a priority if you notice a change inside your mouth. Try not to jump to any conclusions, as oral cancer is not likely to be the cause.  However, if oral pathology is present, the sooner you can get treatment, the better your chances of recovery.

While irregularities in the mouth may be cancerous, a number of benign conditions can also alter the appearance of the cheeks, lips, tongue, palate and gum tissue. An examination from a qualified professional can tell you if your mouth abnormality is due to a minor health issue or a more serious condition.

oral pathology and oral cancer

Common Oral Cancer Symptoms

Any changes in the mouth could be warning signs of pathology or cancer. Symptoms that may point to the presence of cancerous growth include:

  • White or reddish patches or lesions
  • Sores that don’t heal on their own
  • Lumps, rough spots or thickened mouth tissues
  • Lack of symmetry in the face, neck or mouth
  • Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
  • Chronic sore throat or hoarseness

When diagnosed in the early stages, cancer treatment can be highly effective. For that reason, experts recommend inspecting the mouth tissues during the course of daily brushing. Performing monthly self-examinations is also advised.

Other Oral Pathology Conditions

Lesions and unusual spots in the mouth aren’t always cancerous — a number of oral pathology conditions have similar symptoms. A few of the more common pathologies include:

  • Cold sores or fever blisters, caused by the herpes simplex virus
  • Canker sores triggered by injury, stress, nutritional deficiency, allergic response or sensitivity
  • Thrush or candidiasis, a fungal infection often seen in people with compromised immune systems
  • Fibromas resulting from injury or irritation to the mouth tissues
  • Benign bone tumors due to developmental abnormalities

In some cases, a pathological condition isn’t the culprit at all. Certain medications — including aspirin, beta-blockers, sulfa drugs and chemotherapy treatments — can cause mouth sores.

Diagnosing Oral Pathology

Oral pathology screenings involve a visual and physical examination of the mouth, jaw and neck. If any irregularities are detected, a range of cutting-edge diagnostic procedures — including exfoliative cytology, fluorescence visualization, toluidine blue staining and brush biopsy — may be performed to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of oral cancer.

Regular exams performed by a qualified oral surgeon are your best defense against oral cancer. Routine annual or biannual screenings can often spot pathological abnormalities before symptoms appear, and early detection allows for an easier and more successful treatment.

If your last professional screening was over six months ago — or if you notice an unusual change in your mouth — make an appointment with the professional team at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah.

Our board-certified surgeons, Dr. Partridge and Dr. Maxfield, have extensive skill, training and experience in oral pathology diagnosis and treatment. For an expert oral cancer screening in the greater Salt Lake City area, contact us today.