A precancerous oropharyngeal growth, also called dysplasia, is a lesion that contains abnormal cells. It is confined to the lining, or mucosa, of the oropharynx. NYU Langone doctors may monitor a precancerous oropharyngeal growth for further changes, or they may recommend having it surgically removed.
If a precancerous growth is found, doctors perform a biopsy to obtain a tissue sample. The sample is then examined under a microscope. Pathologists determine whether a person has mild, moderate, or severe dysplasia based on how unusual the cells appear and how deeply they have grown into the mucosa.
People with severe dysplasia are at high risk of developing oropharyngeal cancer, while those with mild dysplasia are at low risk. Knowing whether someone has mild, moderate, or severe dysplasia can help a doctor determine how to manage a growth.
If you are diagnosed with precancerous lesions, NYU Langone doctors advise you to take preventive measures, such as quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and taking steps to avoid a human papillomavious (HPV) infection.
Doctors may recommend observing mild dysplasia, which has a low risk of becoming cancerous. Observation may involve frequent visits to an oropharyngeal cancer specialist, who examines the growth for any changes. These visits occur on a schedule determined by your doctor.
If you have moderate or severe dysplasia, NYU Langone doctors surgically remove the precancerous growth. These types of lesions have a greater chance of becoming cancerous.
Most often, your doctor removes the dysplasia and a small margin of healthy tissue to ensure the entire growth is removed. General anesthesia or monitored sedation, which allows you to stay awake, may be used to manage any discomfort.
You may return home the same day, after the general anesthesia or sedation has worn off. Doctors can prescribe medication for any pain or discomfort you may experience afterward.
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