Diagnosis

Most often, your doctor diagnoses leukoplakia by:

  • Examining the patches in your mouth
  • Attempting to wipe off the white patches
  • Discussing your medical history and risk factors
  • Ruling out other possible causes

Testing for cancer

If you have leukoplakia, your doctor will likely test for early signs of cancer by:

  • Oral brush biopsy. This involves removing cells from the surface of the lesion with a small, spinning brush. This is a non-invasive procedure, but does not always result in a definitive diagnosis.
  • Excisional biopsy. This involves surgically removing tissue from the leukoplakia patch or removing the entire patch if it's small. An excision biopsy is more comprehensive and usually results in a definitive diagnosis.

If the biopsy is positive for cancer and your doctor performed an excisional biopsy that removed the entire leukoplakia patch, you may not need further treatment. If the patch is large, you may be referred to an oral surgeon or ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist for treatment.

Hairy leukoplakia

If you have hairy leukoplakia, you'll likely be evaluated for conditions that may contribute to a weakened immune system.