A Answers (4)
American Dental Association answeredIt is now easier than ever to detect oral cancer early, when the opportunity for a cure is great. Only half of all patients diagnosed with oral cancer survive more than five years. Your dentist has the skills and tools to ensure that early signs of cancer and pre-cancerous conditions are identified. You and your dentist can fight and win the battle against oral cancer.
Todd Welch, Periodontics, answered
Here are seven simple self-examine steps you can take to help identify oral cancers in their earliest stages, so you can get yourself into a treatment program NOW!1. Tongue and floor of the mouth
- Look in a mirror and stick out your tongue.
- Examine the upper surface of the tongue for any unusual lumps or obvious changes in color. Dark blotches, for example, on the upper surface of the tongue should be examined.
- Pull the tongue forward and examine the sides for lumps, bumps, masses and, again, obvious changes in skin color or texture. If you discover any obvious swelling, see a doctor. Oral cancers are often painless, making them difficult to diagnosis based on pain. But you can see oral cancer, in many instances, early enough to solve the problem as an out patient. How cool is that?!
- Examine the underside of your tongue by placing the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Same procedure. See any unusual bumps, lumps, swelling or changes in skin color.
- Your tongue should have a uniform texture and uniform color. Glide you finger along the underside of your tongue to feel for unseen bumps. Any deviation should be examined by your family doctor first to see if a visit to an oncologist is step #2.
Perform a visual exam for discoloration. Then gently slide your finger over the roof of your mouth feeling for any kind of protrusion. (Pizza blisters don’t count.) If you feel anything out of the ordinary, report to your doctor stat!3. Check your cheeks
Visually inspect your cheeks. Extend them (be gentle) to look for red, white or dark-colored patches. Next, place your forefinger on the interior check and your thumb on the outer cheek. Gently squeeze as you rotate you fingers across the entire cheek. This is the best way to detect lumps, bumps or swelling – through the sense of touch. Cheek cancer can often be felt before there are any visible symptoms.4. Lips
The lips are highly sensitive to sunlight and lip cancer is one possible (and unfortunate) result. Open your mouth and examine both the outer and inner lip for changes in color or texture. Gently extend you lips to get the best view of the interior lip area. (You may have to do a little twisting to get the view you want. If so, use a hand mirror to get a good look at the interior lip surface.) Discoloration and protrusions are sometimes early signs of lip cancer.
Stephen Simpson, Dentistry, answered
Absolutely! Your dentist should preform an oral cancer screening exam as part of your initial or periodic dental evaluation. The dentist will evaluate the tissues in and around your mouth (including your tongue) and check for any suspicious irregularity or discoloration. Occasionally, it may be appropriate to remove a small sample of suspicious tissue so that it can be histologically evaluated by an oral pathologist, who can determine if additional treatment is necessary based on the characteristics of the cells harvested. Early detection and treatment of oral cancer is the best way to insure a successful outcome to this potentially deadly disease process.
Hillel Ephros, Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, answered
Yes, oral cancer can be detected early, but most often, the diagnosis is made in advanced stages of the disease. The best outcomes are associated with oral cancer detected when it is no bigger than a penny and has not penetrated more than a millimeter or two into the mouth lining tissue. At that point, most oral cancers do not cause pain or numbness and what is visible in the mouth is usually a subtle red, or red and white area without any bleeding, crusting, or lumpiness. People often miss or ignore the early changes because they are subtle and painless. Also, early mouth cancer can look very similar to common non-cancerous mouth sores so that proper evaluation by a dentist or a physician is necessary. Any change from the normal appearance of your mouth lining tissues that does not go away in two weeks must be examined by a professional. Some of the products and tests available to dentists and physicians may help to see the area better and to determine whether it contains cells that show signs of being disturbed. However, a biopsy, sampling a small piece of the affected tissue, is necessary to make the diagnosis.