“Oral cancer, and cancer of the mouth and throat, collectively kills nearly one person every hour of every day of the year” (American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons). Often times oral cancer goes undetected, or is discovered too late which leads to the high death rate. We want to raise awareness about oral cancer and give you the facts that may help lead to early diagnosis.
You may not be experiencing any symptoms, but if you see any of the following, please consult your dentist:
• A sore in your mouth or on your lip that doesn’t seem to heal
• Thickening of your lips or gums
• A lump in your mouth or on your lips
• Bleeding, pain or numbness in your mouth
• Loose teeth or dentures that don’t seem to fit any longer
• Red or white patches, in and around your mouth
• Trouble chewing or swallowing
• Swelling of the jaw
• Sore throat or feeling that something is caught in your throat
Dentists recommend regular checkups every six months for a reason. “There a two parts to the checkup, the oral exam and the cleaning. The oral exam is when we check the teeth for decay and cavities, the gums for swelling and possible disease, as well as the tongue, throat, face, neck and head for signs of trouble,” says Dr. Espinosa.
In between visits, you should be performing self-examinations. Here are some things you can do at home:
• Use a mirror to investigate your mouth, you may considering doing this before visiting the dentist to discuss any concerns, and again afterwards to see what your mouth looks like after any issues have been eliminated
• If you have dentures, remove them and feel around your gums
• Look and feel the roof of your mouth
• Pull your cheeks out to feel and look around the inside surface, as well as the back of the throat
• Stick out your tongue to look at the top, sides and underneath
• Feel your lymph nodes, glands, to detect any lumps in and around your neck or under your jaw
• As you do this, look for any of the signs discussed above including white patches, red patches, sores, bleeding, lumps, etc.
National Oral Cancer Awareness Month is observed in April, but we want to get a head start on educating you. Please make sure you’re scheduling your regular six month checkups with your dentist. If you have any concerns, know Dr. Espinosa and the Bonita Del Rey team offer free consultations and second opinions. Remember, early treatment could be the key to complete recovery.
Source: National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health