As with many cancers, oral cancer treatment is more effective the sooner the disease is diagnosed.
According to the American Cancer Society, 49,670 people will be diagnosed with oral and oropharyngeal cancers and about 9,700 people will die from it. Because of an increased focus on proactive self-screening and early detection, the death rate from oral cancer has been declining over the past 30 years. The survival rate is 80 percent when the disease is detected in its initial stages.
Your part in early detection starts with regular self-screening. You should examine your face, neck and mouth for any abnormalities on a consistent basis and immediately report suspicious findings to a medical or dental professional.
Where to Look
The tongue and the floor of the mouth are high-risk areas where cancer may develop, but you should examine your entire face and neck during your self-screen. Make it a regular part of your day, perhaps during your daily dental hygiene routine. All you need is a mirror and a flashlight.
What to Look For
You’re looking for tissue texture changes, lumps, bumps, rashes and/or color changes. Oral cancer usually starts on the tissue surfaces in the mouth. If it goes unnoticed, over time it can grow deep into the tissue and bone.
When you’re trying to determine if a dental condition is abnormal, remember that normal healing time for any oral injuries is about two weeks. If the area in question has not healed by then, it’s vital to discuss the issue with your dentist or doctor.
8 Exam Steps
Here is an easy eight-step process to completing an oral cancer self-exam:
- Look in the mirror and check facial symmetry for imbalance.
- Check the inside of both the upper and lower lip.
- Look at the inside of both cheeks.
- Check the color of both upper and lower gums.
- Check the surface of tongue, then raise it and look and feel the mouth floor.
- Look as far back into the throat as possible.
- Touch both sides of the neck, feeling for bumps.
- Make sure your Adam’s apple moves up and down freely when you swallow.
You Can Also Reduce Your Risk Factors
Besides initiating a regular self-exam, you can take steps to reduce your risk of developing oral cancer by limiting how much alcohol you consume, protecting your lips and face with sunblock, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables as part of a well-balanced diet and most importantly, ceasing any tobacco use.
If you need a second opinion on suspected oral cancer, contact Northeast Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery today to set up a consultation.