Can You Spot Oral Cancers at Home
Posted on 9/25/2019 by Jared Pell, DDS
|The short answer is yes, there are some signs you can identify at home. You should check yourself between dentist visits with these steps listed below. One of the most important things that happen when you come in for your bi-yearly check-up and teeth cleaning is a thorough cancer screening. Therefore, it is so important to see your dentist every 6 months.
If some form of cancer is present, it will be detected ahead of time. The earlier that it is detected, the greater the chance you'll have of putting it in remission. We would like to provide you with some basic information about what we look for so you are educated and aware of any red flags in your oral care. This will give you the ability to check yourself at home in between visits to the dentist.
What to Look for Visually
A dentist would start out looking at your face, outside of your mouth and lips, your nose area, and down your neck to your shoulders. What you are searching for is any asymmetries, swollenness, small bumps, or any patches of discoloration on the inside or outside of your mouth. Any white spots are one of the first precancerous signs. You have lymph nodes below your ears. Look to notice any swelling or if one looks larger than the other when you look upwards. When looking inside your mouth look for any red bumps or lesions. Just like in the movies a doctor would use a tongue depressor and have you say, “ahhhhhh.” This allows seeing the throat area for any white or red spots.
What to Feel for in Your Mouth, Cheek, and Neck Area
You will need to feel around your cheeks, neck area, around your head, around and below the jawline, inside your jawline, and your oral cavity. You are feeling for any unusual masses or lumps. If you feel any tenderness in doing this, please get an appointment scheduled with a dentist. It's a major red flag. When you have developed oral cancer, it is usually painful. There are cases without pain, but there is significant swelling that signifies an issue somewhere else.
In closing, it's important to remember that checking yourself for cancer is not nearly as effective as visiting a professional. Our office possesses specialized examining tools to provide a complete oral cancer screening. There are groups of people that possess a higher risk of mouth cancer. If you use tobacco of any kind, including smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or chewing tobacco and snuff, your risk is high. Heavy alcohol use has a track record of causing cancer in the throat area.
If you have had a previous oral cancer diagnosis, you stay at risk for further attacks. A history of significant sun exposure, which increases the risk of lip cancer puts you at risk as well. If you notice any signs or just to be safe, please contact our office immediately and we will get you scheduled for a thorough screening.