Self-examine for Oral Cancer:
Oral cancer is a type of cancer that if caught early, the survival rate is very high. But unfortunately, most people don’t check for this type of cancer regularly and cancers of the mouth grow very quickly and once it does, the survival rate is very low. Oral cancer can affect any part of the mouth including tongue, cheeks, gums, lips, soft and hard palate, larynx and esophagus. Since you are the first person to notice any changes in your body, you can determine the presence of cancer early on by self-examination.
How do you do a self-examine for oral cancer?
Basically, you are responsible to look after yourself especially with your health. You are the best person to feel and see changes that happen in your own body. Here are ways on how to self-examine for this disease:
Examine your Tongue:
- Pull your tongue out and check the top surface, the sides and underneath your tongue for any white or red patches, any bumps or lumps, any sores or lesions, any swelling or any changes in the texture or color of your tongue.
- Notice if these changes go away right away, or stay for weeks. If they don’t go away, then you need to see either your dentist or a oncologist. It is recommended to see your dentist first because your dentist can do an oral cancer exam which includes checking for tongue cancer, and if he or she finds anything abnormal, they will refer you to a specialist.
Examine of the cheeks:
- Use your fingers to stretch your cheeks out and visually check for any red, white or dark patches.
- Use you forefinger and your thumb (one on inside and other on outside of your cheek) to squeeze gently as you slide all over your cheek and fell for any lumps, bumps or swelling.
Examine the lips:
- Check your lips for any changes in color or texture.
- Gently extend your lower lip out and inspect the inside of your lip for any lumps, pumps, swellings, or discolored patches.
- Do the same with your upper lip.
Examine of the palate (roof of your mouth):
- Open your mouth wide and tilt your head back and again look for any white, red or dark patches.
- Run your finger along your palate to feel any pumps, lumps or swelling.
Examine your neck:
- Open your mouth wide and say ahhhh to check the back of the tongue and throat area for any discoloration, lesions, lumps or swelling especially those surfaces near the tonsils.
- Gently slide your fingers over the front and sides of your neck to feel for any lumps that are present on one side and not the other.
- Then do the same thing with a firm pressure, and look for any tenderness or swelling.
Although we cannot see deep enough to check the larynx or esophagus, this will still catch some of the early signs.
Coughing can be a sign, too!
Cough which stays for a longtime, can be a determinant for oral cancer. You may feel like you only have a cold but really you do not, there are no signs of a cold, only a cough, then you need to see your doctor. Choking cough which is common to smokers are the first signs of irritated upper lungs. In order to rule out whether your cough is due to smoking or possibly cancer, you need to stop smoking for a few days or a week and see if the cough goes away. If it doesn’t then see your doctor right away.
Self-examination for oral cancer can be done in your own private space. It can save your life. Taking care of your body means keeping an eye on every angle for any abrupt changes like the manifestations of oral cancers. Try to check around your mouth everyday if possible because this will give you a great idea of what your mouth looks like and you can detect any changes quickly. If you detect any changes or see any or the signs and symptoms we discussed, see your dentist right away.
Remember, you should still have your dentist do a oral cancer exam every six months. Also your dentist has special equipment to do a more thorough oral cancer exam to detect discolorations and lesions that may not be visible to the eye. So make sure if your dentist does not offer you this, ask for it. Also remember, treatment for oral cancer is very effective if caught at its early stages. Don’t take a risk with your life!
Here is a video on how to self examine
By: Ladan Zinati