Your Maxillofacial and Oral Surgeon is the expert for diagnosing and surgically treating cancer of the head, neck and mouth. Oral cancer’s mortality is particularly high, not because it is hard to detect or diagnose, but because the cancer is often discovered late in its development.
Perform a self examination monthly
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons recommend that everyone perform an oral cancer self exam each month. Don’t wait! See your Maxillofacial and Oral Surgeon if you have any of these signs.
Using a bright light and a mirror:
- Remove any dentures
- Look and feel inside the lips and the front of gums
- Tilt head back to inspect and feel the roof of your mouth
- Pull the cheek out to see its inside surface as well as the back of the gums
- Pull out your tongue and look at all of its surfaces
- Feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes (glands) in both sides of the neck including under the lower jaw
When performing a self-examination, look for the following:
- White patches of the oral tissues
- Red patches
- Red and white patches
- A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
- An abnormal lump or thickening of the tissues of the mouth
- Chronic sore throat or hoarseness
- Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
- A mass or lump in the neck
If the Maxillofacial and Oral Surgeon agrees that something looks suspicious, a biopsy may be recommended. A biopsy removes a small piece of the suspicious tissue, which will accurately diagnose the problem and help the doctor to develop a specific plan of treatment.
Factors That May Cause Cancer
A number of primary factors may contribute to the development of oral cancer. These include:
- Heavy drinking and smoking
- Human papilloma virus
- Smokeless chewing or spit tobacco
- Physical trauma
- Infectious disease
- Poor oral hygiene
- Poor nutrition
Your mouth is one of your body’s most important early warning systems. Don’t ignore any suspicious lumps or sores. Should you discover something, make an appointment for a prompt examination. Early treatment may well be the key to complete recovery.