How to Perform a Self-Examination for Oral Cancer in 5 minutes

How to Perform a Self-Examination for Oral Cancer in 5 minutes or less. Wed , Apr 19

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3 minutes read.

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and there’s no better time to learn about the importance of early detection. One way to help catch oral cancer early is by performing a self-examination or an easy examination with your friend or anyone closer to you’s help on a regular basis. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it:

Step 1: Check your face and neck

  • The first step in an oral cancer self-examination is to check your face and neck. Look for any lumps, bumps, or asymmetries that weren’t there before. Pay particular attention to the lymph nodes in your neck, as swelling in these nodes can be a sign of oral cancer.

Step 2: Check your lips and gums

  • Next, using flash on your smartphone or a flashlight check your lips and gums for any unusual changes. Look for white or red patches, sores, or ulcers that don’t heal within a few weeks. Check both the inside and outside of your lips, as well as the gums and the inside of your cheeks.

Step 3: Check your tongue

  • The tongue is a common location for oral cancer to develop, so it’s important to give it a thorough examination. Stick out your tongue and look at the surface for any changes in color or texture. Check the sides and underside of your tongue, as well as the back of your throat.

Step 4: Check the roof and floor of your mouth

  • Use a flashlight or flash on your smartphone to examine the roof and the floor of your mouth. Look for any changes in colour or texture, such as white or red patches. Run your finger along the surface to feel for any lumps or bumps.

Step 5: Check your throat

  • Finally, check your throat for any changes. Use a mirror to get a clear view of the back of your throat. Look for any swelling, lumps, or bumps. You can also gently press your fingers against the sides of your throat to feel for any abnormalities.

What to look for:

  • White or red patches in the mouth or on the lips

  • Sores or ulcers that don’t heal within a few weeks

  • Lumps, bumps, or swelling in the mouth, neck, or throat

  • Pain or difficulty swallowing

  • Changes in the way your teeth or dentures fit together

  • Numbness or tingling in the mouth or lips

What is considered abnormal:

  • It’s important to note that not all lumps or bumps in the mouth are cancerous. However, any changes or abnormalities that persist for more than two weeks should be evaluated by a dentist or doctor.

    Abnormalities that may indicate oral cancer include:

    • White or red patches that don’t go away
    • Sores or ulcers that don’t heal
    • Lumps, bumps, or swelling that persists
    • Pain or difficulty swallowing
    • Changes in the way your teeth or dentures fit together
    • Numbness or tingling in the mouth or lips

What can pre-cancers and cancers look like:

  • Leucoplakia: A white or gray patch that can develop on the tongue, the inside of the cheek, or on the gums. While most cases of leucoplakia are non-cancerous, some can progress to become cancerous.

  • Erythroplakia: A red patch that can develop on the tongue, the inside of the cheek, or on the gums. Erythroplakia is less common than leucoplakia, but it is more likely to be cancerous.

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: The most common type of oral cancer, squamous cell carcinoma often begins as a white or red patch in the mouth or on the lips. It can also appear as a lump or sore that doesn’t heal.

  • Verrucous carcinoma: A type of squamous cell carcinoma that appears as a wart-like growth in the mouth.

  • Lymphoma: A cancer of the lymphatic system that can affect the lymph nodes in the neck or the tonsils.

  • Salivary gland tumours: Tumours that develop in the salivary glands, which are in the mouth and throat.

  • If you notice any of these changes or abnormalities during your self-examination, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your dentist or doctor as soon as possible. Early detection is key to successful treatment of oral cancer.

    In addition to performing self-examinations, there are a few other things you can do to reduce your risk of oral cancer. These include:

    • Quitting smoking or using tobacco products
    • Limiting your alcohol consumption
    • Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables
    • Using sunscreen on your lips when spending time outdoors
  • By taking these steps, getting your teeth cleaned and check every 2-3 months and performing regular self-examinations, you can help protect yourself against oral cancer. Remember, early detection is the key to successful treatment, so don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your dentist or doctor if you notice any changes or abnormalities in your mouth, neck, or throat.

     

     

    Written by,
    Dr MA Raja
    Senior Consultant Medical Oncology
    Director of Oncology Services
    Chairman, Medical Advisory Board