According to the American Cancer Society, over 30,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States. Unfortunately many cases are caught too late, resulting in over 7000 oral cancer deaths per year in the USA. Fortunately, oral cancer can often be diagnosed early with an annual oral cancer screening provided by Dr. Shumaker. If caught early, oral cancer can be effectively treated.
A suspicious gum lesion requiring biopsy
Oral cancer is a pathologic process, which begins by producing no symptoms making it hard to recognize without an exam. There are many types of oral cancer, including teratoma, adenocarcinoma and melanoma. The most common form of oral cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, which typically originates in the lip, tongue or mouth tissue. There are many other places in which oral cancers occur, including: the salivary glands, throat, gums, and face. Oral cancer exams may also uncover other non-cancerous forms of oral pathology including autoimmune conditions such as Oral Lichen Planus, Oral Pemphigus/Pemphigoid, and forms of desquamative gingivitis/stomatitis which can be treated and managed by Dr. Shumaker. 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, however 25% of oral cancers are found in patients with no risk factors. Quitting or reducing your use of these items will reduce your risk of oral cancer.
What to Expect
The oral cancer examination is completely painless. Dr. Shumaker will look for abnormalities and feel the face, glands, and neck for unusual bumps. A thorough visual exam inside the mouth and upper part of the throat will be performed. Any tissues which appear abnormal may require further investigation.
In many cases Dr. Shumaker may recommend further examination using the Velscope oral cancer screening system. Velscope is a state of the art technique which uses a special light which allows us to see pathologic changes in the tissue better than we can with the naked eye.
If suspicious abnormalities, lesions, lumps, leukoplakia (white patches), or erythroplakia (red patches) are apparent upon visual or Velscope exam, a brush biopsy, or an excisional or incisional biopsy may be necessary determine a diagnosis and if any further treatment is needed. Tissue is carefully removed from within and/or nearby the suspicions area and submitted to a specialist in Oral Pathology to examine under a microscope, and in some cases with advanced techniques such as immuno-fluorescence to determine a diagnosis. Once the results of any biopsy are returned, Dr. Shumaker will contact you immediately to go over the results and make sure you understand what is necessary if any further treatment is needed.