4 Things You Need To Know About Proliferative Verrucous Leukoplakia

Posted on: 18 September 2015

Proliferative verrucous leukoplakia is a precancerous lesion that can develop on the soft tissues inside your mouth. Here are four things you need to know about it.

What are the signs of proliferative verrucous leukoplakia?

If you have proliferative verrucous leukoplakia, you'll notice lesions on your oral soft tissues. The insides of the cheeks and the tongue are usually where the lesions develop, but other tissues can sometimes be involved. The lesions tend to occur on both sides of the mouth.

At first, the lesions are white and thick. Over time, they take on a lumpy, wart-like appearance and spread aggressively. If you notice white lesions inside your mouth, make sure to tell your dentist right away.

How serious is it?

Proliferative verrucous leukoplakia is a very serious condition because the lesions almost always become cancerous. The resulting cancer has mortality rates of between 39% and 43%. Due to the very high chance that the lesions will turn into a high-mortality cancer, these lesions need to be taken seriously and treated promptly.

How is it treated?

Since this condition is aggressive, it doesn't respond to many non-invasive treatments. The lesions will need to be surgically excised. Your dentist may do this procedure, or they may refer you to an oral surgeon or an oncologist to have it done. Surgical excision involves removing the entirety of the lesions as well as a margin of healthy tissue from around the lesions. This ensures that all of the abnormal tissue is removed.

After your surgery, your dentist or oncologist will need to monitor you for recurrence. Recurrence rates of this condition are reported to be between 87% and 100%, so there is a good chance that you will develop more lesions. Follow-up appointments are required at least every six months; these appointments will continue for the rest of your life.

These frequent follow-ups may be annoying, but you can't rely on home oral exams to spot recurrences as they may develop in hard-to-see places. If the lesions return, they will be surgically removed, just like the original lesions.

How common is proliferative verrucous leukoplakia?

This condition is fairly uncommon. In the United States, it affects less than 1% of adults. The lesions are four times more common in females than in males. Proliferative verrucous leukoplakia usually occurs in people over 40 years of age, though younger people can sometimes be affected. The peak incidence for this condition is 60 to 70 years old.

If you find white lesions inside your mouth, see your dentist right away. You could have proliferative verrucous leukoplakia, a serious, but treatable condition. For more information, contact a professional like those at Sturdy Memorial Hospital.