Oral cancer can be a life-threatening condition if it is diagnosed in an advanced stage when it has already spread to surrounding tissues. However, the prognosis when it is identified and treated earlier is quite good for patients. The five-year survival rate for patients who initially present with localized oral cancer is 83 percent, and it drops to 38 percent in cases when the cancer has metastasized, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Therefore, you should be sure to visit your dentist every six months for an exam that includes an oral cancer screening and follow-up with an oral surgeon if you have any concerning symptoms, such as sores that will not heal, red or white patches or lumps or thickenings along the gums or in the tongue.
Oral surgery is necessary to remove the suspicious tissue in order to biopsy it. Depending on the size of the tissue, the entire area may be removed or just a small sample.
When the biopsy results are in, your oral surgeon can decide how to proceed with treatment. If some malignant tissue is remaining, you will need to undergo another oral surgery procedure until you get clear margins. That is, there is no evidence of cancer in the areas surrounding the initial tumor.
A biopsy for oral cancer is a relatively quick procedure. You may be instructed to avoid vigorous activity for a period of time afterward, but you’ll be able to resume most of your normal activities within a day or two. Your surgeon will give you thorough instructions for oral care after the biopsy in order to reduce your risk of infection and other post-operative issues.
Many patients don’t realize that their routine dental exams can be a life-saving measure. Don’t get off track with these semi-annual appointments, and if you or your dentist have any concerns, call our office to schedule an appointment. Don’t delay in getting this important treatment.