A Biopsy Can Help Diagnose Oral Cancer

Often, the only way to properly diagnose an oral cancer is through an oral biopsy. One of our oral surgeons will take a small tissue sample and send it to a trusted lab for analysis. At the Oral Surgery and Dental Implant Center of Santa Fe (OMSC) serving Los Alamos, Taos, and Santa Fe, NM, our team is experienced in many forms of oral surgery and can use this service to help detect oral cancer in the earliest stages, when it is most easily treated.

oral biopsy
Analysis of a tissue sample can determine if you require treatment for oral cancer.

What Is a Biopsy?

During a biopsy, our surgeons can remove a section of an abnormal growth on the lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, or soft palate. This procedure typically involves a small incision. The sample is then sent to a pathologist, who examines the tissue under a microscope. The pathologist can then identify any cancerous cells.

Oral Cancer Risk Factors

Every year, approximately 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer. However, certain individuals are at a higher risk. Risk factors include:

  • Age: The majority of oral cancer appears in patients over the age of 40.
  • Tobacco use: Both cigarettes and smokeless tobacco can lead to oral cancer.
  • Alcohol consumption: Alcohol is especially dangerous when used in conjunction with tobacco.
  • Persistent viral infections: Viruses such as human papillomavirus (HPV) can lead to oral cancer.
  • Ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure: UV exposure is one of the most common causes of lip cancer.

Early diagnosis of cancer is one of the best ways to improve your prognosis. 

An effective way to protect yourself against oral cancer is to undergo regular oral cancer screenings during biannual exams. Your general dentist may then recommend you to our office for a biopsy if abnormalities are detected. Early diagnosis of cancer is one of the best ways to improve your prognosis. 

The Procedure

Depending upon your needs, we can perform either an incisional biopsy or fine needle aspiration (FNA). During an incisional biopsy, we can remove a small piece of tissue. This can be performed under general anesthesia to ensure comfort during the procedure. Fine needle aspiration uses a very thin needle to extract cells. FNAs are used in specific cases, generally when checking for recurrence of cancer. We offer sedation to patients who are anxious during their biopsy. 


Depending on the type of biopsy you receive, the site may be sore for a few days after the procedure. While it is important to maintain a good oral hygiene regimen, you should avoid bushing around the site as directed. Some biopsies require sutures. If you experience bleeding, swelling, or pain for an extended period of time after the biopsy, contact our office

Receiving Your Results

It typically takes a few days to receive results, though it may take longer. The pathologist can identify any signs of cancer or other abnormalities and report to your doctor. Using these results, your doctor can recommend an effective treatment plan. 

We Are Here to Help

At the Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Center, we are equipped to provide biopsies with minimal discomfort. We have resources for referring doctors as well as patients. Contact our office online or call us at (505) 984-0694 to request an appointment.

our team

The Oral Surgery and Dental Implant Center of Santa Fe

At The Oral Surgery and Dental Implant Center of Santa Fe, Drs. Healy and Hurtado use the latest technologies to perform wisdom teeth removals, dental implant placement, and more. Our surgeons are affiliated with several professional organizations, including:

  • The American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
  • The Southwest Society of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons
  • The American Dental Association

To schedule a consultation, contact us online or by calling (505) 984-0694.

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"I was nervous... but Dr. Healy and his nurses put me at ease, and he even gave me a call the evening after surgery to make sure I was ok." From a Google Review

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Los Alamos Office

3250 Trinity Dr
Los Alamos, NM 87544

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1392 Weimer Rd
Taos, NM 87571

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2100 Calle de la Vuelta
Ste B103
Santa Fe, NM 87505

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