Self-Screening for Oral Cancer
Greetings from Sheila Tan, DDS!
When it comes to leading a long, healthy life, it's always best to know yourself. While this advice can take on significant philosophical meaning, I'm talking about knowing yourself better physically. Being in tune with your body and watching out for early symptoms of disease can be your ticket to perpetually good health.
Every hour of every day somebody in the United States dies of oral cancer. This serious dental disease, which affects the mouth, lips or throat, is often highly curable if diagnosed and treated in its early stages. When you go in for your regular dental exam, you're also being screened for oral cancer. While that's fine and dandy, it's best to go a step beyond, screening yourself at home regularly. This is doubly true for those who drink excessive amounts of alcohol, use tobacco products, are regularly exposed to sunlight, have lip-biting and cheek-chewing habits or have ill-fitting dentures, as all of these characteristics put you at greater risk.
Here's how to screen for oral cancer at home:
- Examine yourself in the mirror. The left and right sides of the face and neck should have the same shape. Check for swelling, lumps and bumps.
- Look at your skin and note any changes in the color or size of sores, moles or other growths.
- Press your fingers along the sides and front of your neck. Do you feel any tenderness or swelling?
- Pull your lower lip out and look for any sores. Use your thumb and forefinger to feel the upper and lower lips for lumps or texture changes.
- Examine the insides of your cheeks for red, white or dark patches. Gently squeeze and roll each cheek between your index finger and thumb to check for bumps and tenderness.
- Tilt your head back to check the roof of your mouth, and then run your finger along the surface. Do you feel or see any unusual lumps or discoloration?
- Check out the top, bottom and sides of your tongue, including the soft tissue under it. Once again, note any swelling, discoloration or unusual lumps.
Symptoms of oral cancer include: sores on the face, neck or mouth that do not heal within a couple of weeks; swelling, lumps or bumps on the lips and gums; chronic bleeding in the mouth; white, red or dark patches in your lips, cheeks, gums or tongue; and numbness, loss of feeling or general pain in any area of the face, mouth or neck. If you experience any of these symptoms, or find something unusual during your self-exam, call our office at (650)962-8773
immediately for an appointment!
Sheila Tan, DDS
P.S. If you have any friends or family members who you feel could use our services, please don't hesitate to have them call us. We'll be sure to take good care of them.