About Soft Tissue Biopsies
Part of your regular dental visit should include routine screening for oral cancer. When something looks a bit suspicious, your dentist may follow up with a soft tissue biopsy to rule out anything that needs treatment, says Dr. Stephen Tran, DDS, who runs Firewheel Smiles in Garland, Texas. Remember, however, that most people have no symptoms, and that oral cancer is usually discovered not by the patient, but by a dentist.
During your routine dental visits, you should be getting a visual oral cancer screening – if you are not, then ask for one. Anything that raises a red flag or concern with your dentist should be immediately followed up with a soft tissue biopsy.
A soft tissue biopsy involves your dentist taking tissue to a lab, where the cells of the tissue can be studied under a microscope. Based on the results of a soft tissue biopsy, your dentist will decide what to do next. That would mean whether to disregard it, if all looks well, or proceed with more aggressive removal, depending on what is found.
A soft tissue biopsy may sound more complicated than it actually is. All that happens is that a piece of tissue is taken from the lesion or the source of concern. The dentist will just surgically remove a tiny bit and take it away to the lab. This can involve removing gum tissue or other tissue (often a lump of skin which has a different color or texture from the other skin that surrounds it).
As a rule, both red and white lesions in the mouth can be a potential cause for concern when it comes to oral cancer. Anything that does not clear up on its own within two weeks should be referred to your dentist. Often, however, the signs of oral cancer are not obvious to the patient, and can only be picked up by the dentist.
There are other possible signs and symptoms of oral cancer, although not everyone has any of these symptoms. They can include difficulty chewing, a feeling that something is caught within the throat, a lumpy feeling in the soft tissue of the mouth, hoarseness, ear pain, difficulty moving the jaw towards the tongue, and other problems.
Excessive alcohol use as well as tobacco use can contribute to incidents of oral cancer, and other contributing factors include age and excessive exposure to sunlight (as in the case of lip cancer). Men are known to get oral cancers twice as often as women do, and early detection is the key to having a high survival rate. So make sure you get an oral cancer screening with every dental visit, and don’t leave your health up to chance.
*Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.