Oral cancer is cancer of the tongue, lips, checks, esophagus, larynx & other body bits around your mouth. And as with all cancers, the earlier oral cancer is detected, the better the outcome.
What causes oral cancer? Some known causes include smoking, chewing tobacco & HPV which is transmitted through oral sex. BTW, oral sex is quickly becoming the leading cause of oral cancer- for more info on how oral sex increases risk of oral cancer, click HERE.
Oral cancers are often painless, making them difficult to diagnosis based on pain making the self examination below even more important. So without further ado, here are 7 self examination tips to detect signs of oral cancer:
1. Tongue & floor of the mouth
Your tongue should have a uniform texture and uniform color. Any deviation should be examined by your doctor.
- Look in the mirror and stick out your tongue.
- Examine the upper surface of the tongue for any unusual lumps or obvious changes in color. Dark blotches, for example, on the upper surface of the tongue should be examined.
- Pull the tongue forward & examine the sides for lumps, bumps, masses & again, obvious changes in skin color & texture. If you discover any swelling, see a doctor.
- Examine the underside of your tongue by placing the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
- Glide your finger along the underside of your tongue to feel for unseen bumps.
2. Examine the roof of your mouth
Tilt your head back as you stand in the front of a mirror. Position yourself so you get a good view of the entire upper mouth. Perform a visual exam for discoloration. Then gently slide your finger over the roof of your mouth feeling for any kind of protrusion. (Pizza blisters don’t count.) If you feel anything out of the ordinary, contact your doctor.
3. Check your cheeks
Visually inspect your cheeks. Extend them to look for red, white or dark-colored patches. Next, place your forefinger on the interior check and your thumb on the outer cheek. Gentle squeeze as you rotate your fingers across the entire cheeks. Cheek cancer can often be felt before there are any visible symptoms.
4. Head & Neck
Stand with your head straight up in front of the mirror. Usually, your face is uniform, ie. has the same shape on both sides. If there is a lump, bump or other protusion on one side of the face, contact your doctor. Although it may very well be nothing, it could also be something. In either case, it’s worth getting it looked at by a professional.
The lips are highly sensitive to sunlight and lip cancer is one possible result. Open your mouth and examine both the outer and inner lip for changes in color or texture.
6. Neck Area
This is where the esophagus & larynx are located, but we can’t see that far down our throats. Using a feather-light touch, gently slide your fingers along the sides and front of your neck feeling for any lumps that you discover on one side of your next, but not the other. Next, apply a small amount of pressure as you slide your fingers over skin. Note any tenderness, soreness or swelling. So again, first a gentle exam, then add a little pressure and do it again.
7. A Persistent Cough
You can feel it and hear it- a cough that just doesn’t go away. Get it checked out especially if you are a smoker… regular or occasional.
*** Make examining your mouth part of your everyday oral hygiene regimen. It takes less than a minute, and it could save your life.