A Simple Self-Exam to Detect Oral Cancer

The American Cancer Society estimates that over 34,000 new cases of oral cavity cancer (mouth cancer) and oropharyngeal cancer (throat cancer) will be diagnosed in 2011. Even though the number of new cases has been dropping over the past three decades, there has been a recent rise in cases of oral cavity cancer in men under the age of 50 that is related to infection with human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus. The death rate for these cancers has been dropping since the late 1970s.

Signs of Oral Cancer and other Oral Pathologies

The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and coral pink in color. Any alteration in this appearance could be a warning sign of a pathological process, the most serious being oral cancer. The following can be early signs:

  • Reddish patches (erythroplakia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth.
  • A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily.
  • A lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth.
  • Chronic sore throat or hoarseness.
  • Difficulty in chewing or swallowing.

You can detect these changes on the lips, cheeks, palate, gum tissue around the teeth, tongue, face and/or neck.

The 5-Minute Self Exam

Step #1: Press along the sides and front of your neck and face, and feel for any tenderness, swelling or lumps.

Step #2: Pull up your upper lip, and look for sores and color changes on your lip and gums. Repeat this on your lower lip.

Step #3: Use your fingers to pull out your cheeks, and look for any color changes such as red, white or dark patches. Put your index finger on the inside and your thumb on the outside of your cheeks to feel for any lumps.

Step #4: Tilt your head back and open your mouth wide to see is there are any lumps or color changes.

Step #5: Grab your tongue with cotton gauze and examine for swellings or color changes. Look at the top, back and sides of your tongue.

Step #6: Touch the roof of your mouth with your tongue and look at the underside of your tongue and the floor of your mouth. See if there are any color changes or lumps. Use one finger inside your mouth and one finger on the outside, and feel for any unusual bumps, swelling or tenderness.

As with all cancers, early detection is a critical part of successful treatment. The oral and maxillofacial surgeons at Face and Jaw Surgery Center in North Dakota recommend that you examine your mouth once a month, so that you notice any changes early.

In addition to your monthly self exams, visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings. Remember that your mouth is one of your body’s most important warning systems. Do not ignore suspicious lumps or sores. Make an appointment with your dentist for a professional evaluation of your situation.

No-Obligation Consultation

If your dentist recommends a consultation with an oral and maxillofacial specialist, contact Face and Jaw Surgery Center at one of our four, convenient North Dakota locations. Our surgeons are specially trained in oral cancer and other types of pathologies of the mouth and have performed thousands of oral surgeries. We can evaluate your condition and recommend the most effective treatment plan.

Face and Jaw Surgery Center serves all of North Dakota and North West Minnesota including Moorhead, MN and East Grand Forks, MN.

Bismarck, ND office

Fargo, ND office

Grand Forks, ND office

Minot, ND office