Doing an Oral Cancer Self-Examination at Home

Oral cancer will strike more than 48,000 people in the United States in 2016, according to the American Cancer Society, and more than 9,500 are expected to die as a result of the disease.

Oral Cancer Self-Examination

The American Cancer Society also tells us that an early diagnosis provides the best chance for a successful treatment outcome.

Having a qualified oral surgeon or dental professional perform regular examinations can help detect potential problems that may indicate oral cavity and pharynx cancer development. However, frequent self-examinations between dental visits are just as important, as you may spot signs of the disease early, at a more curable stage.

If you aren’t doing an oral cancer self-check at least once a month, it’s time to get started.

Signs and Symptoms that May Indicate Oral Cancer

When you conduct a self-examination, you will look for anything that seems unusual. When you first start, you won’t know yet what’s unusual, but after a few self-checks, you will begin to recognize how the tissues of your oral cavity normally appear.

Lumps, bumps and lesions may be early signs of oral cancer, as might any unexplained pain, bleeding, swelling or asymmetry in the face, mouth or neck. Color or textural changes in the mouth tissues or skin, such as white, red or speckled patches, also can indicate oral cavity or pharynx cancer.

Some possible symptoms of oral cancer are not as obviously attributable to the disease, but it’s important to watch for these as well.

Hoarseness, ear pain, changes in the way your teeth fit together and dramatic, unexplained weight loss may all indicate a growing problem, although they also could be caused by other medical or dental conditions.

Areas to Check for Oral Cancer Indications

Ask one of our oral surgeons to demonstrate the steps for a self-examination during your next appointment to ensure that you understand how to complete it properly at home.

The entire procedure, while thorough, typically takes less than five minutes, and can be performed in any well-lit room using a mirror and a flashlight.

A self-examination for oral cavity and pharynx cancer involves checking eight separate areas: the face, neck, trachea, lips, gums, cheeks, palate and tongue.

For the face and neck, you’ll need to look and feel for irregularities and imbalances, comparing the two sides. Next, touch your throat as you swallow to check the trachea for a difference in movement.

To examine the areas inside the mouth — the lips, gums, cheeks, palate and tongue — you’ll need to move the lips and tongue and draw back the sides of the mouth to look for any abnormalities.

What if You Notice an Unusual Spot or Symptom?

We strongly recommend performing your oral cancer self-examination on a monthly basis. Put a reminder in your smartphone or on your calendar until it becomes a habit for you.

If you do happen to notice anything out of the ordinary during one of these routine checks, schedule an appointment with us as soon as possible.

With early detection, oral cavity and pharynx cancers can be successfully treated, so don’t hesitate to schedule a professional screening at any time.

The entire team of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah is dedicated to maintaining your health and well-being, and that of your family. Don’t take chances with your health or future. Begin your monthly oral cancer self-examinations today.