Early Signs of Oral Cancer: Self-Exams Could Save Your Life

The early signs of oral cancer aren’t always easy to spot, so you should practice examining your mouth regularly.

Oral Cancer Self Exam

Oral cancer affects about 48,250 Americans every year, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. About 9,575 people will die, and the survival rate is grim: Only a little more than half of those diagnosed will still be alive after five years.

Why is oral cancer so deadly? The primary reason is because it’s not detected early enough for treatment to be effective. That’s why doctors, dentists and experts in the research field all strongly recommend that you check for signs of oral cancer at regular intervals.

Screen the Inside of Your Mouth

Start by examining and looking for any red or white lesions or patches on your tongue. Next, check the floor of your mouth. The disease is most common there and on the tongue.

Also check the roof of your mouth, the lining of your cheeks and the inside of your upper and lower lips. Finally, look far back in the throat with the help of a light. If you see any roughness, raised patches or changes in the tissues, it’s time to see your doctor or oral surgeon.

Feel the Outside of Your Neck and Throat

Some signs of oral cancer won’t be apparent — you might only be diagnosed when the cancer starts to spread to other areas, such as your face and neck, so you should check the outside of your neck and throat regularly, feeling for suspicious lumps.

Start by touching the junction of your jaw, then feel underneath your jawbone down to your chin. Feel behind your ears, moving down your neck, then feel in between your clavicle bones.

Watch for These Signs and Symptoms

Even if you don’t see or feel anything, other symptoms could be early signs of oral cancer, such as a mouth sore that simply won’t heal. Sudden tooth loosening or pain, a constant sore throat or numbness in the cheeks and tongue all may point to this disease too.

Here are some additional symptoms that should prompt you to make an appointment with your doctor, dentist or oral surgeon:

  • Sudden voice changes
  • Constant bad breath
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain during jaw movement
  • Unexplained oral bleeding

You are at a higher risk of developing the disease if you consume tobacco or alcohol and don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables.

When in doubt about whether you have some of the early signs of oral cancer, make an appointment with Northeast Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, and get the treatment you need to recover and thrive.