Because the mouth is a region where changes can be easily seen, oral cancer can be detected in its early stages. The inside of the mouth is lined with mucosa which is smooth and coral pink in color. Any alteration in the appearance of the mucosa could be a warning sign for a pathological process. The most serious of these is oral cancer.
Who Is At Risk of Developing Oral Cancer?
- People over 40 years of age
- Heavy drinkers
- Heavy smokers
- Users of smokeless tobacco, including snuff
Others at risk include patients with poor oral hygiene, irritation caused by ill-fitting dentures and rough surfaces on teeth, poor nutrition, some chronic infections, and combinations of these factors.
What Are Some Common Signs of Oral Cancer?
- White (leukoplakia) or Red (erythroplakia) patches of the oral tissues
- Red and White patches (erythroleukoplakia)
- Sores that fail to heal within two (2) weeks and/or bleed easily
- Abnormal lumps or thickening of the tissues of the mouth
- Chronic sore throat or hoarseness
- Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
- A mass or lump in the neck
Pain does not always occur with pathology, and curiously, is not often associated with oral cancer. However, any patient with facial and/or oral pain without an obvious cause or reason may also be at risk for oral cancer.
Perform a Self–Exam Monthly
Using a bright light and a mirror, do the following and observe for the common signs listed above.
- Remove any dentures
- Look and feel inside the lips and the front of gums
- Tilt head back to inspect and feel the roof of your mouth
- Pull the cheek out to see it’s inside surface as well as the back of the gums
- Pull out your tongue and look at all of it’s surfaces
- Feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes (glands) on both side of the neck including under the lower jaw
We recommend performing oral cancer self-examination monthly. Your mouth is one of your body’s most important early warning systems. Don’t ignore any suspicious lumps or sores. Should you discover something, please make an appointment for a prompt examination. Early treatment may well be the key to recovery.