According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 48,330 people will receive an oral cancer diagnosis in 2016. Oral cancer can affect any part of your mouth: tongue, lips, cheeks, or soft palate. Since oral cancer is a life-threatening disease, you must treat it early. Knowing how to check for oral cancer could save your life, and luckily, the exam process is simple, painless, and quick.
How to Check for Oral Cancer
If you want to learn how to check for oral cancer, you first need to examine your mouth. About once a month, check for abnormalities and changes. One of the easiest ways to do this is with a magnifying mirror and good lighting. Look at your gums, cheeks, lips, and tongue closely. Once you finish examining your tongue, make sure to check out the palate underneath your tongue. If you notice anything unusual, schedule an appointment with your dentist to have the problem examined by a professional.
Look for White or Gray Patches
Look for white or gray patches in your mouth that are hard and rough. These patches are called leukoplakia. They commonly develop when people chew on the inside of their cheeks or lips, but they may also develop from exposure to carcinogenic substances. If you have white or gray patches in your mouth, you may have abnormal tissue growth that can become malignant. Leukoplakia usually develops slowly and is difficult to remove.
Look for Red and White Patches
In addition, look inside your mouth for a mixture of red and white patches. These patches are called erytholeukoplakia, and they are a type of abnormal cell growth that can become cancerous. You may see the red and white patches before you can feel them. Oral cancer rarely causes pain in the early stages, which is why you must pay attention to any abnormalities that you see or feel in your mouth. Make sure to visit a dentist if you have red and white patches that last longer than 14 days.
Look for Bright Red Spots
Finally, be on the lookout for bright red patches in your mouth. Erythroplakia are bright red patches that look and feel like velvet. Nearly 75 to 90 percent of erythroplakia cases turn out to be cancerous. These patches can develop anywhere in your mouth, but they are usually found underneath the tongue. If you spot bright red patches in your mouth, visit your dentist right away so that he or she can take a biopsy.
Know the Common Symptoms of Oral Cancer
If you want to know how to check for oral cancer, you need to learn the symptoms. Swelling is one of the most common symptoms that oral cancer patients develop. If you have persistent swelling inside your mouth, make sure to have the problem examined by a professional. Unexplained bleeding is another common oral cancer symptom. If your mouth keeps bleeding for unexplained reasons, you should seek treatment immediately. In addition, cancer can cause unexplained numbness around the mouth, face, and neck.
If you have a sore in your mouth that does not heal within 14 days, have the problem examined by a professional. The sore may be a simple ulcer, but it could also be something more serious. Sometimes, oral cancer patients feel like they have something stuck in the back of their throat. If you have this feeling, do not assume that you have a virus that will go away on its own. As a precaution, you should always have the problem examined by a professional.
Oral cancer patients often struggle to chew, swallow, or move their jaw properly. If your teeth or dentures no longer fit together like usual, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist. Some other possible symptoms include a chronic sore throat, lumps, ear pain, hoarseness, and dramatic weight loss. Oral cancer can even cause a change in voice.
Visit Your Dentist
You should visit the dentist twice a year to have your teeth professionally cleaned. This is also a good cancer-screening tool, because it gives your dentist a chance to recognize oral cancer in the early stages. Your dentist can treat precancerous cells before they turn malignant. Dentists check patients for oral cancer routinely, so they know how to examine the mouth quickly and efficiently.
During an oral cancer screening, the dentist will start by inspecting your face, lips, neck, and jaw. Then, your dentist will use his or her hands to feel around your jaw for possible lumps. After that, the dentist will look inside your mouth for abnormalities. He or she will examine your tongue for swelling, unusual textures, or abnormal coloring. Besides the roof and floor of your mouth, the dentist will also examine the back of your throat.
Now that you know how to check for oral cancer, it’s time to schedule a visit with your dentist. If you’re looking for an experienced, reliable, and friendly dentist in or near Springfield, Missouri, contact Wilkinson Dental. Dr. Wilkinson and his team will give you the personalized treatment you deserve using state-of-the-art technology. Schedule your first appointment today by calling 417-708-0556 or requesting an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you!