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Dental and Oral Health (Adults)

Small Painless Lump in Mouth/Cheek

05/03/2010

Question:

A few months ago, I noticed a small, painless lump in my cheek. The lump is located about a 1/4 inch in from the corner of my mouth on the right side. It hasn`t changed in size, is not discolored and can`t be seen unless I stretch my cheek open and press the area forward from the outside. even then, it`s very difficult to see unless you know exactly where to look. the lump appears to be fixed (can`t be moved around) and is firm / doesn`t appear to be fluid filled.

I asked my dentist about it during my last check up. He quickly felt it and said he thought it was a blocked salivary duct. He didn`t seem to think any further investigation was necessary. A few weeks later I saw an ENT who did an even quicker exam than my dentist. He agreed that it appeared to be nothing to worry about but didn`t give any indications as to what he thought it was.

I`ve scoured the internet and 99.9% of the web pages I`ve read regarding painless lumps in the face mention cancer and quite honestly, it has me terrified. The sites I`ve looked at regarding salivary duct issues tend to mention pain and swelling that comes and goes and I have had none of that. I simply discovered this lump while running my tongue along my cheek one day.

Any insight you may have would be greatly appreciated!

Answer:

While most likely this could be a blocked salivary gland duct (which is very likely), other things could appear similar clinically. You might have a scarred-down minor salivary gland, or perhaps a salivary duct stone. Several benign tumors (not cancer) could look like this as well.

 

The possibility that this is cancer is quite small, but the only way that we could know for sure would be to do a biopsy. An oral surgeon, who would send the tissue to an oral pathologist for examination, normally does this. The biopsy procedure is rather minor, and the peace of mind that you would get once a definite diagnosis is made under the microscope would probably be worth it.

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Response by:

Carl M Allen, DDS, MSD Carl M Allen, DDS, MSD
Professor of Oral Pathology
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University