November is Mouth Cancer Action Month, so naturally as dental professionals we feel it is our duty to shed some light on this disease. Mouth cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world and accounts for around 2% of the cancers diagnosed in the UK. Detecting mouth cancer early is vital to maintaining the already impressive survival odds of 9 out of 10. However, we’re not satisfied with these results until everyone is beating mouth cancer. Knowing the signs of mouth cancer is critical to its detection, so this month we’re going to spotlight the symptoms so that you may stay informed and safe. Here’s the exact changes in your mouth that you should be looking out for.
What are the symptoms of mouth cancer?
Early detection of mouth cancer begins with regular checking at home. Every 3-4 weeks, perform the checks we’re about to detail in your bathroom mirror after brushing your teeth. They don’t take long, and they could make all the difference. Mouth cancer can appear in almost all of the tissues in your mouth, including your lips, gums, cheeks, and tongue. In general, there are three main signs that signify you could have mouth cancer. A mouth ulcer that doesn’t heal after three weeks, light, dark, or red discolouration, or newly discovered lumps are all potential signs of mouth cancer. If you encounter any of these changes, you should seek a medical opinion.
How to check yourself for mouth cancer
Head and neck – Begin with checking your head and neck in the mirror. Feel for any lumps, bumps, or swelling that appear on one side of your neck but not the other. Press along the sides of your neck to feel for bumps or tenderness. This is important because mouth cancer can begin in the lymph glands in the neck and less commonly in the windpipe and saliva glands.
Lips – Next, move on to your lips. In front of a mirror, pull your lower lip down and check the inside of it for sores that resemble lumps, ulcers, or discolouration. Use a finger and thumb to gently massage the lip to feel for any lumps or changes in texture. Repeat this process with your upper lip, too.
Cheeks – Pull your cheek aside so that you can see its inside wall in the mirror. Check this tissue for any discolouration. Then, pinch your cheek by placing a finger on the inside of it and a thumb on the outside. Squeeze, roll, and massage your cheek to detect any lumps or tenderness. Repeat this on your other cheek.
Tongue – Stick out your tongue and move it from side to side, noting any swelling, lumps, or changes in colour on either side of it. Then, stick it out flat and check the surface for changes in texture or colour (which could appear red, white, or black). Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth and check its underside for these same signs.
The floor of your mouth – Press your finger along the floor of your mouth and where your tongue connects to it to feel for any swelling, lumps, and ulcers. Discolouration can also appear in this area too.
The roof of your mouth – You’ll need a dentist’s help to perform this check properly, but it still doesn’t hurt to try your best to do this at home if you can. This check requires you to open wide and tilt your head back. Your dentist will then check for any unusual lumps and discolouration on the roof of your mouth.
We all know someone who has been affected by cancer in one form or another, so we all understand how important it is to find any signs early. Perform your own checks every 3-4 weeks and always ask your dentist questions if you’re unsure. Enquire online or speak to a member of staff on 01384 376336 to book your next dental appointment with Lion Dental Centre in Stourbridge.