Original Publication
Open Access

The Oral Examination, Oral Cancer and Pre-Cancer

Published: April 9, 2013 | 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.9386

Included in this publication:

  • BOHC Toolkit.pdf
  • MedEdPORTAL Instructors Guide.docx
  • MedEdPORTAL Oral Cancer and precancer.docx
  • MedEdPORTAL Oral Examination.mp4
  • Natarajan MedEdPORTAL Presentation Oral Cancer.mp4

To view all publication components, extract (i.e., unzip) them from the downloaded .zip file. This publication includes large downloadable files. If you experience difficulty downloading these files, please contact mededportal@aamc.org to receive a free DVD version via mail.

Editor's Note: This publication predates our implementation of the Educational Summary Report in 2016 and thus displays a different format than newer publications.


The oral cavity is a key anatomic location. Yet in the course of professional training of physicians, dentists, and other health professionals, it is often given only modest attention. This module emphasizes the importance of the oral examination as a component of the general physical examination, and its role in the routine screening for oral cancer and lesions with malignant potential. This resource may be used as an educational and training component of the curriculum in physical examination and clinical diagnosis for students (i.e., medical, dental, nursing and allied health professions), and both medical and dental residents.

This module consists of two separate learning segments. The first segment, titled The Oral Examination, is a narrated PowerPoint with an embedded video demonstration of how to conduct a proper oral examination. Emphasis is placed on visualization of the facial skin, palpation of the neck, and intraoral examination technique. The anatomy of the oral cavity and commonly occurring oral findings are illustrated and discussed. The module introduces oral cancer and precancer which are discussed more fully in the following segment.

The second segment, titled Oral Cancer and Precancer, is also a narrated PowerPoint presentation, and a continuation of what was presented in the first segment. The key pathogenetic and clinical aspects of oral squamous cell carcinoma and its precursor lesions are presented. An in-depth discussion of the classic patient profile and contemporary information about the pathogenesis of oral squamous cell carcinoma are highlighted.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this session, learners will be able to:

  1. Understand the importance of a thorough oral examination as a key component of the complete physical examination.
  2. Recognize normal anatomical structures of the oral cavity properly.
  3. Learn the visual and palpatory techniques for examining the perioral and oral structures.
  4. Recognize common variants of normal oral anatomy, commonly occurring pathological findings, and oral cancer and precancerous lesions.
  5. Identify the classic clinical features of oral cancer and precancer.
  6. Recognize the classic profile of the oral cancer patient.
  7. Educate a patient about the pathogenesis of their disease, and the contributing risk factors.
  8. Explain the rationale behind long-term clinical management strategies for interception and treatment of premalignant and malignant oral lesions.

Author Information

  • Easwar Natarajan: University of Connecticut
  • Ellen Eisenberg: University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine
  • Miranda Jennings, PhD: University of Connecticut

None to report.

None to report.


Natarajan E, Eisenberg E, Jennings M. The oral examination, oral cancer and pre-cancer. MedEdPORTAL. 2013;9:9386. https://doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.9386

This publication is co-sponsored by the American Dental Education Association.