While your general dentist does check for symptoms of oral cancer during regular checkups, there is a self-exam you can do at home to check for any unusual signs. Early detection is crucial in effectively treating cancer and preventing health complications in the future.
What to Look for During an Oral Cancer Self-Exam
When screening for oral cancer at home, you should perform a self-check once a month. It is best to stand in front of a mirror in a well-lit room so that you can clearly evaluate yourself. You may also need a flashlight to look at the inside of your mouth.
The areas you should check are your neck, cheeks, lips, tongue, gums, and your mouth’s interior. Here are the signs to look for in those main areas:
|•||Red or white spots|
|•||New occurrences of thickened skin or lumps|
|•||Sores that will not heal after about two weeks|
|•||Difficulty swallowing, chewing, speaking|
|•||Any pain or numbness|
|•||Changes in teeth alignment|
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
A well-known risk factor for oral cancer is smoking and other tobacco products, especially as one gets older. However, this is not the only risk. Drinking alcohol in large amounts and long exposure to UV rays also put someone at risk. Recently, research also has linked HPV infections to oral cancer. Even if you are not exposed to these risk factors, it is still important not to ignore any warning signs or symptoms.
What to Do if You Notice Something Unusual
If you notice something unusual, you can contact your general dentist, and they can check if there are any signs that need to be further evaluated with a biopsy.
Oral surgeons are specially trained in diagnosing oral cancer, so you may be referred to one if your general dentist sees symptoms that need follow-up. You can also contact our office directly if you have concerns, and we can offer advice on the best next steps.