Take the Oral Cancer Self Exam

Close-up Of A Doctor Examining YouIn the U.S., a person dies of oral cancer every hour.  When detected in the late stages, the 5-year survival rate is 22%, compared to 80% when detected early. 

The main risk factors are chronic smoking and heavy alcohol consumption, with a male to female ratio of 6:1  Just recently, a new risk factor was thrown into the mix – the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).  It is now believed that 25-30% of oral cancer is related to HPV, moving the male to female ratio to 2:1.  What does this mean? – it means that everyone, young and old, male or female, is at risk – and everyone should see their dentist for an oral cancer screening at least once each year. 

With the oral cancer rate increasing, a wider range of people being affected, and the benefits of early diagnosis, it’s only rational to educate the public on how to perform an oral cancer self exam.  If you are concerned about any of your findings, see your dentist for an evaluation.

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Check your face and neck for symmetry.  Run your fingers along your neck and under your jaw to check for any swellings, masses, or tenderness. 

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 Evaluate your lips and gums for any discolorations or irregularities. 

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Pull your cheek out and look for any red or white patches.  If you use smokeless tobacco, you may notice a callus-like white patch that needs to be evaluated by your dentist.  Pay close attention to the area behind your last lower molar – this is a HIGH RISK site.  Look for color changes or any irregularities.

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Open wide and lean your head back to look at your hard and soft palate.  Look for any lumps, ulcerations, or red or white patches.  The soft palate is another HIGH RISK site.  (NOTE: The “lump” in the photo is a palatal torus and totally normal.)

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Grab your tongue with gauze and examine the left and right sides along with the top.  The lateral border of the tongue is a HIGH RISK site.  Look for ulcerations, color changes, or any other abnormalities. 

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Put your tongue on the roof of your mouth to view the under side.  The ventral side of the tongue is a HIGH RISK site.  Look for ulcerations, white or red patches, lumps, or asymmetry.

There are many clinical situations that can mimic oral cancer, including apthous ulcers (canker sores), herpetic lesions (cold sores), trauma, toothpaste reactions, odontogenic swellings, and many more.  If you notice any of the above mentioned abnormalities, see your dentist.  A biopsy may be indicated.  Your dentist only sees you about twice a year, so it’s up to you to notify your dentist of any atypical findings in the meantime.  Together we can win the battle against oral cancer!

Related Articles:

What Every Mom Should Know About Pregnancy and Oral Health

The Health Risks of Gum Disease

5 Ways to Fight Bad Breath

Root Canal or Implant?

Tired of Being Numb All Day?

Related Links:

Oral Cancer Self Exam.com

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