Oral cancer, which includes cancers of the lips, cheeks, tongue, bottom of the mouth, hard and soft palate, throat, and sinuses, can appear as a growth or sore that will not go away. Oral cancer can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated early. To do a self-check, notice if the mouth is smooth and a coral pink, which is baseline normal for a mouth’s interior. Changes to the color and texture of your mouth may be an early warning sign.
Oral Cancer Monthly Self-examination
Once a month, check your entire mouth and throat for suspicious lumps or sores. Use a bright light and mirror to examine your lips and gums, tilt back your head to look at the roof of your mouth, and examine the lining of your cheeks, your tongue, the floor of your mouth, and your throat. Check your lymph nodes for lumps on both sides of your neck and under your lower jaw. The following can be also signs of a cancerous growth:
- Red patches, called erythroplasia, or legions that don’t go away.
- White patches, leukoplakia, or legions that don’t go away.
- A sore that bleeds easily and is slow to heal.
- A thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth or an unusual lump.
- Chronic hoarseness or a continually sore throat.
- Difficult or painful moving of the jaw or tongue.
- Difficult chewing or swallowing or feeling like something is stuck in your throat.
Pain and Oral Cancer
Pain usually doesn’t occur with oral cancer and is, in fact, rarely associated with oral cancer. If you have face or mouth pain without an obvious reason, you should consider contacting an oral surgeon to assess your risk factors.
Preventing Oral Cancer
- Ask your dentist to perform an oral exam at your next appointment.
- Avoid all tobacco products.
- Drink alcohol in moderation and do not binge drink.
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Limit your exposure to the sun, and use UV-A/B-blocking sun protective lotion on your lips, especially the lower lip.
Early detection of oral cancer can improve the chance of successful treatment. The best prevention is awareness of the health of your mouth and jaw. Tissue changes in the mouth, jaw, or neck can usually be seen and felt easily. Cysts and tumors in the mouth and jaw can be benign, but they can slowly enlarge and create local destruction to the jaws and surrounding structures. Contact us today if you have questions or concerns about oral cancer.