The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and coral pink in color. Any alteration in this appearance could be a warning sign for a pathological process. The most serious of these is oral cancer. The following can be signs at the beginning of a pathologic process or cancerous growth:
- Reddish patches (erythroplasia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth.
- A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily.
- A lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth.
- Chronic sore throat or hoarseness.
- Difficulty in chewing or swallowing.
- Swelling or expansion of the jaws or face
- Unexplained numbness of the mouth or face
- Unexplained weakness of the facial muscles
These changes can be detected on the lips, cheeks, palate, and gum tissue around the teeth, tongue, face and/or neck. Pain does not always occur with pathology, and curiously, is not often associated with oral cancer. However, any patient with facial and/or oral pain without an obvious cause or reason may also be at risk for oral cancer.
It is important to accurately diagnose diseases of the mouth as early as possible so that treatment can start immediately and increase the chance of cure.
What to Expect:
- A number of exams and tests may be conducted to determine the cause of symptoms and diagnose the disease.
- Biopsy or tissue removal is the most accurate method, as the tissue is sent to the laboratory for a diagnosis.
- Treatment would then consist of further excision / removal or referral to an appropriate specialist.
- Patients should follow strict instructions provided by the doctor to enhance post-op recovery.
We would recommend performing oral cancer self-examination monthly and exams by your dentist every 6 months, and remember that your mouth is one of your body’s most important warning systems. Do not ignore suspicious lumps or sores. Please contact us so we may help.
Everyone should perform an oral cancer self-exam each month. An oral examination is performed 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
“ABCD’s of Skin Cancer” – Click here to learn more about proper care.