22nd November 2018
What are the signs of mouth cancer?
This November is Mouth Cancer Action Month, and as the high-quality dentists we are we would be doing you a disservice if we didn’t do our part to inform. When mouth cancer is detected and treated early, the chances of survival rocket to an impressive 90%. This is why we believe it’s so important to know the warning signs, because together we can improve these results much more with a little know-how and monthly checks.
How to check for the signs of mouth cancer
Mouth cancer doesn’t just limit itself to what you would think of as the mouth. The signs can show in a number of different places, including the lips, tongue, gums, cheeks, and neck. As a general rule, you should keep an eye out for mouth ulcers that don’t heal after three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth, and unusual lumps and swellings.
Head and neck – Check on both sides for any lumps, bumps, or swellings that appear only one side of the face and not the other. Feel and press along the sides and front of your neck, taking care to notice any tenderness, lumps, bumps, or irregularities.
Lips – Pull down your lower lip and check inside for any sores or changes in colour, taking note of red or white patches. Use a thumb and finger to feel the lip for any lumps of changes in texture using a sort-of massage technique. Do this on both your upper and lower lip.
Cheeks – Keep in mind that some signs might resemble mouth ulcers, so if you notice a mouth ulcer that hasn’t healed after 3 weeks you should seek a second medical opinion just in case. In front of a mirror, pull your cheek aside with your hooked forefinger and check for red, white, or darkened patches. Then, place your finger inside your cheek and your thumb directly over it on the outside so you could pinch your cheek. Gently squeeze and roll the check to check for any lumps. Take note of any unusual tenderness or ulcers and do this on both cheeks.
Roof of the mouth – You might need a doctor or dentist’s help with this for a really thorough check. With your head tilted back and your mouth open, your dentist will check for any lumps of discolouration on the roof of your mouth.
Tongue – Mouth cancer can occur on your tongue, so check for any changes in colour or texture on its surface. Stick it out and move it from side to another, again checking for any discolouration or swelling. Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth and check its underside.
Floor of the mouth – An often-neglected area of the mouth, it’s important we check the floor of the mouth. Press your finger along the floor of your mouth and the underside of your tongue, including where it joins the base of it, and feel for swelling, lumps, and ulcers. Keep an eye out for dark patches or irregular discolouration.
Mouth cancer risk factors
Although mouth cancer can strike anyone, around 91% of all diagnoses are linked to certain lifestyle factors. This means that making changes in your lifestyle could go some way to protecting and preventing the development of mouth cancer. Risk factors chewing or smokeless tobacco, heavy alcohol consumption, HPV, and tobacco.
Mouth cancer, when detected early, can be beaten, but it does need to be detected in the first place. By learning these signs and where to check, you could help protect yourself from mouth by staying diligent and informed. Talk to your dentist or doctor about any worries or ask for advice on how to check at your next routine dental appointment. Enquire online or speak to a member of staff on 01622 730 548 to book your next appointment.