Today is National Cancer Survivors Day. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, nearly 49,750 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer, and the disease will cause approximately 9,750 deaths this year. Oral cancer has an incredibly high death rate because it is routinely discovered too late. One way to prevent late discovery of oral cancer is to maintain regular visits to the dentist and to be vigilant about your oral care routine at home. Oral cancer tends to be asymptomatic in its early stages; in other words, you may not feel it when it develops. So here are some of the most common symptoms that you can check for at home during your daily oral care routine.
- Using a piece of gauze or a washcloth, grip the tip of your tongue and extend it as far as you can. Examine the sides and underside of your tongue for any white or red patches and feel your tongue for lumps.
- Use your fingers to feel for lumps and check for red or white patches on the inside of your cheeks and on the insides of your lips.
- Thoroughly examine the floor of your mouth, both under your tongue and under your chin. Check for red or white spots here too.
- Feel the roof of your mouth for lumps as well as any soft spots on the palate
- Examine your neck for enlarged lymph nodes. This could be a sign of infection of something more serious.
- Using a dental mirror (or just a small mirror), check your tonsils for symmetry, redness, swelling, or anything that looks unusual.
If you think you have any signs of oral cancer, or notice anything unusual that you are uncertain about, take a picture and schedule an appointment with your dentist.