Almost 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer every year and more than 8,000 are fatal cases. These numbers are staggering, but the fact is that oral cancer can be detected early and treated if you act fast. Just like other forms of cancer where self-screenings are essential, the same is true for oral cancer. The process is not difficult and when it is done in conjunction with regular dental checkups, you can help to catch the signs early and receive appropriate treatment.
How to Self-Exam
The process of examining yourself for signs of oral cancer only takes a few short minutes. If you do this once a month, you can possibly help to save your own life! You do not need any special tools; just your hands and possibly a flashlight to see deep down in your mouth.
The areas you will examine include:
- Roof of your mouth
- Floor of your mouth
Examine each of the areas inside your mouth carefully. If you cannot see, use a flashlight. You are looking for any odd discolorations, lumps, bumps, or changes in texture. The first time you do this, you might not know if what you are looking at is different than normal, so use that first time as a baseline. When you do this exam continuously every month, you will know what is normal and what is not. If you notice something that looks a little different than before, come in for an appointment. Do not worry that every spot that you find is cancerous, but knowing right away can help to prevent it from becoming something more serious than necessary.
The Head and Neck Exam
After you examine the inside of your mouth it is time to examine the outside of your neck and head. This takes just another few short minutes and could be lifesaving as well!
Take a hand and put it on either side of your face. Starting at the jaw, just below your ears, feel for any bumps. As you move your hands down, use moderate pressure to allow you to feel any nodules that are nestled deep within your skin. Continue to explore down your neck on both sides, at the base of your neck, under your chin, and even behind your neck. Any nodules or bumps that you did not notice before should immediately be checked out.
When to Call Us
As a general rule, if you notice anything out of the ordinary, it warrants a phone call to us. If you find sores in your mouth and do not want to call right away, give it a few weeks. If the sores do not get better, it is time to call. If you ever find any unusually swollen areas or bumps that seem out of the ordinary, call right away. It is always better to err on the side of caution rather than taking a chance with your own life!
Oral cancer is one of the deadliest cancers, but it can be caught early if you are proactive. We work closely with our patients ensuring that they have thorough oral cancer screenings in our office, but we need you to team up with us in order to ensure that you are continually monitored and that any suspicious signs of cancer are caught early enough to be successfully treated.
If you are unsure about how to perform an oral cancer screening at home, please call us today for an appointment and our friendly staff will help you out!