In Malaysia, 2 persons are diagnosed with oral cancer every day where 75% seek treatment at the later stages and only half of them survives. According to the National Cancer Registry, Ministry of Health, mouth cancer is the third most common cancer among Malaysian Indian community. If cancer is detected earlier, the treatment outcome is more favorable and the chance of survival is definitely much higher. And of course, prevention is better than cure. Biopsy can be performed to detect the abnormalities of the swelling whether it is benign (good) or cancerous.

Tissue sample for biopsy

What is biopsy?

A biopsy is a procedure where a small part of tissue is removed so that it can be looked closely under microscope.

When is it indicated?

  • A sore or lesion on any area of your mouth which lasts for more than 2 weeks.
  • A white or red patch on your mouth.
  • An non-healing ulcer for more than 2 weeks.

What is the purpose of a biopsy?

a. For definitive diagnosis so that correct treatment can be initiated as soon as possible

b. To establish prognosis of a pre-cancerous or cancerous lesion

Types of biopsy

There are few types of biopsy but most commonly used are:

a. Incisional biopsy

  • A small portion of suspicious swelling will be removed and sent to the laboratory for diagnosis purpose.
  • Pathologists will determine the nature of the swelling and staging of swelling if it is found to be cancerous.
  • Often indicated when the swelling is large and has differing charecteristics, so it may need investigation on several areas.

b. Excisional biopsy

  • Whole swelling will be removed for both diagnosis and treatment purpose.
  • Often indicated when the swelling is small, usually less than 2cm.

How is it performed?

Excisional Biopsy

The procedure is painless as it is done under local anesthetic (numbing injection). Dentist will take small piece of the tissue and stitching is often required afterwards. The tissue specimen will then be labeled and stored into container with special solution inside. It will be sent to the laboratory for investigation. The procedure usually takes 15 minutes from start to finish.

So, if you have a persistent swelling inside your mouth, do seek a dentist for consultation. Don’t be panic, not all the swelling are cancerous but it is better to get it check as soon as possible.