Detection of Oral Cancer

Oral cancer can be detected in the early stages. Some early warning signs and symptoms include:

  • any sores on the face, neck, or mouth that do not heal within two weeks
  • swelling, lumps, growth or hardness on the lips or gums or other areas in the mouth or on the neck
  • white, red or dark patches in the mouth
  • repeated bleeding from the mouth or throat
  • difficulty in chewing or swallowing
  • numbness, loss of feeling, or pain in any area of the face, mouth or neck

Your dentist or physician should check out any of these symptoms that persist after 2 weeks. Visiting your dental professional regularly is also important. The dental hygienist and/or dentist will examine your mouth for abnormal tissue changes. Usually, these changes are not cancer, but it is best to check them out. Checking your own mouth on a monthly basis is also recommended.

Oral Cancer Self-Examination
You may be at risk for developing oral cancer if you:

  • use tobacco products
  • drink excessive amounts of alcohol
  • are exposed to sunlight on a regular basis
  • have a poor diet
  • have habits such as lip biting and cheek chewing
  • have ill-fitting dentures

It is important to learn how to examine yourself for signs of oral cancer and to have regular dental check-ups. Early detection is important.

To perform the oral cancer self-examination, just follow these 7 easy steps.

Look at and feel your:

  1. Head and Neck – look at your face and neck in a mirror. Normally, the left and right sides of the face have the same shape. Look for any lumps, bumps, or swellings that are only on one side of your face.
  2. Face – examine the skin on your face. Do you notice any color or size changes, sores, moles, or growths?
  3. Neck – press along the sides and front of the neck. Do you feel any tenderness or lumps?
  4. Lips – pull your lower lip down and look inside for any sores or color changes. Next, use your thumb and forefinger to gently squeeze and roll the lip. Feel for lumps, bumps, or changes in texture. Repeat this on your upper lip.
  5. Cheek – use your fingers to pull out your cheek so you can see inside. Look for red, white, or dark patches. Put your index finger on the inside of your cheek and your thumb on the outside. Gently squeeze and roll your cheek between your fingers to check for any lumps or areas of tenderness. Repeat this on the other cheek.
  6. Roof of the Mouth – tilt your head back and open your mouth wide to see it there are any lumps or if the color is different than usual. Run your finger on the roof to feel for lumps.
  7. Floor of the Mouth and Tongue – Stick out your tongue and look at the top surface for color and texture. Gently pull your tongue forward to look at one side first and then the other. Look for any swellings or color changes. Examine the underside of your tongue by placing the tip of the tongue on the roof of your mouth. Look at the floor of your mouth and the underside of your tongue for colour changes that are very different from what is normal. Gently press your finger along the underside of your tongue to feel for any lumps or swellings.

If you find anything out of the ordinary and that does not heal or go away in two weeks, or that has recently changed, discuss it with your dental health professional or physician.