A true story, only the patient’s name has been changed. Please read on . . .
Dan thought it was merely chapped lips, the red and white crack in the corner of his mouth. I asked him to have it evaluated further. A biopsy was done. Diagnosis: benign. Dan returned for his “routine cleaning” several months later. As I have done at every “routine examination,” starting in dental school in 1976, I performed an oral cancer screening. I insisted upon re-evaluation and biopsy of Dan’s lip. Diagnosis: malignant…Cancer. Treatment plan: surgery, then radiation therapy. Treatment performed: Surgery only provided complete resolution. No radiation therapy needed. Complete cure with survival over five years. Why?
Early Detection and Treatment
Over 30,000 new cases will be diagnosed in the United States this year. Only 50% will be cured. What causes oral cancer? Usually, tobacco and/or alcohol use/or abuse. Many cases occur without either of these risk factors. Help your dentist help you fight oral cancer.
Early Warning Signs of Oral Cancer
- Any sores on the face, neck, or mouth that do not heal within two weeks
- Swellings, lumps or bumps on the lips, gums or other areas inside the mouth
- White, red, or dark patches in the mouth
- Repeated bleeding in the mouth
- Numbness, loss of feeling, or pain in any area of the face, mouth or neck
To Perform an Oral Cancer Self Examination Just Follow These 7 Easy Steps
Look at and feel your:
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.
Face – Examine the skin on your face. Do you notice any color or size changes, sores, moles, or growths?
Neck – Press along the sides and front of the neck. Do you feel any tenderness or lumps?
Lips – Pull your lower lip down and look inside for any sores or color changes. Next, use your thumb and forefinger to feel the lip for lumps, bumps, or changes in texture. Repeat this on your upper lip.
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.
Roof of the Mouth – Tilt your head back and open your mouth wide to see if there are any lumps or if the color is different than usual. Run your finger on the roof to feel for lumps.
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 color 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, particularly anything that does not heal or go away in two weeks, or that has recently changed, call my office immediately.