Over the past ten years the number of people who have been diagnosed with mouth cancer has increased by a third. More than 2,000 people now lose their lives to mouth cancer every year, which is more than are killed on the UK’s roads. Mouth cancer is a disease which can affect the lips, tongue, cheek and throat. Anyone can be affected by mouth cancer, you do not even need to have your own teeth.
However, with early diagnosis the survival rates for mouth cancer are good at around 90%. It is therefore really important that you do not postpone your routine dental appointments. At each appointment your dentist will evaluate your gums, tongue and soft tissues and if they notice anything unusual they will refer you to the consultant at the local hospital. The consultant will be able to perform a thorough examination and take a sample of any unusual area to determine if any further treatment is needed.
It is also important to know how to check for signs of the disease at home in between appointments.
Follow these 6 simple steps for mouth cancer self-examination from the British Dental Health Foundation Mouth Cancer Action Month
- Head and Neck
Look at your face and neck. Do both sides look the same? Look for any lumps, bumps or swellings that are only on one side of the face.
Feel and press along the sides and front of your neck. Can you feel any tenderness or lumps?
Pull down your lower lip and look inside for any sores or change in colour. Next, use your thumb and forefinger to feel the lip for lumps, bumps or changes in texture. Repeat this with the upper lip.
Looking in a mirror, use your finger to pull out your cheek so that you can see inside. Look for red, white or dark patches. Put your index finger inside of your cheeks and your thumb on the outside. Gently squeeze and roll the cheek to check for any lumps, tenderness or ulcers.
- The Mouth
Run your finger along the roof of your mouth to feel for any lumps. Repeat this on the floor of your mouth.
Stick out your tongue and look at the surface for any changes in colour or texture. Look at one side first, then the other side for any swellings, changes in colour or ulcers. Examine the underside of the tongue.