Many people are surprised to discover that dentists are often the first people to suspect or diagnose various types of oral cancer. Whether it’s related to the gums, tongue, palate or bones in the jaw, dentists tend to look at these tissues in far more detail than doctors ever do, and at regular intervals, so they are far more likely to notice abnormalities that may be related to various types of cancer.
In most cases, the lumps and bumps we get in our mouths are not cancer. They can be something as benign as a mucocele, but unless we take a biopsy, there’s no way to be sure. Many oral examinations turn up such lesions, which aren’t oral cancer and will respond well to mucocele treatment, but the only way to know with any degree of certainty is to perform a biopsy.
What to Expect from a Biopsy?
When patients are referred for a biopsy, there are different types of tests that may be performed:
Incisional, punch and excisional
Incisional biopsy is performed with local freezing, removes a small part of sample tissue, which is submitted to a pathologist for evaluation. After removal of the tissue sample, a few sutures are used to ensure optimal healing. It usually takes 1-2 weeks to receive results, which Dr. Shackleton will share with you once he receives them.
Punch biopsy is performed with local freezing, removes part or all of the sample tissue, which is submitted to a pathologist for evaluation. After removal of the tissue sample, no sutures are required as we simply stimulate blood clot formation. It usually takes 1-2 weeks to receive results, which Dr. Shackleton will share with you once he receives them.
Excisional biopsy is performed with local freezing, removes all of the sample tissue, which is submitted to a pathologist for evaluation. After removal of the tissue sample, a few sutures are used to ensure optimal healing. It usually takes 1-2 weeks to receive results, which Dr. Shackleton will share with you once he receives them.
Different types of biopsy are used under different circumstances, and for different lumps or lesions, and the doctor or dentist performing the procedure will be able to explain why the particular procedure they are using was chosen.
Does A Biopsy Mean Cancer?
No. Many patients are very worried when their doctor or dentist recommends a biopsy, but biopsies are the only definitive way to rule out cancer.
What If It Is Cancer?
If you do have a form of oral cancer, the sooner a biopsy is taken, the cancer confirmed, and treatment begins, the better.
Like all forms of cancer, oral cancers are best treated by specialists in the field, so if your biopsy does return a positive result for cancer, the case will be referred onwards to an oncologist, or to the patient’s medical doctor. Their medical team can then decide on the best treatment plan for their specific case.
What If It Isn’t Cancer?
Oral cancers have risen in prevalence in the US by about 15% since the 1970s, largely driven by lifestyle factors, but obviously early detection. However, there is still an incidence rate of about 10.5 people per 100,000, which is about a thousandth of a percent.
That means that there’s a good chance that any lumps and bumps in the mouth are more likely to require surgical removal than be cancerous.
Many lesions respond well to mucocele treatment, which effectively removes them. However, whether it’s a mucocele or a tumour, the only way to know for sure is to perform a biopsy, so it’s always best to get that done sooner rather than later.
For more information on mucocele treatment or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Tom Shackleton, please contact us at 403-242-9952 today.