Any abnormal swelling or lump in the mouth needs urgent investigation. A swelling may be a cyst or something relatively benign, however the mouth is the fourth most common site for cancer. Early diagnosis and treatment is key for achieving a favourable outcome. Oral tumours can also present as a non-healing wound or ulcer. A lump on the gum is often referred to as an “epulis” by vets. This is, however, a non-specific descriptive term only. Further investigation including biopsy and special dental x-rays are required for a complete diagnosis. Without diagnosis, an appropriate treatment plan cannot be formulated. This is also applicable to all oral swellings and lumps, not just cancer.
A tumour may be malignant or benign and only further investigation can determine this. The common tumour types are fibroma (benign), squamous cell carcinomas (malignant), melanomas (malignant), fibrosarcomas (malignant) and osteosarcomas (malignant). Acanthomatous epulis is more correctly known as an ameloblastoma and should be treated as a malignant tumour.
The earlier the better- frequent examination by owners and vets is required (daily tooth brushing is a great way to identify early). Because of the various appearances of tumours, any abnormality found in the mouth should be investigated and a “wait and see” approach or “let’s keep an eye on it” is never advisable.
To achieve the best results, surgery is usually required. However some tumours are inoperable. Surgery may be palliative or more radical, aiming for cure. Adjunct treatment such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy may also be required.