April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month and the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), is stressing the importance of monthly self-exams in the fight against oral cancer. The purpose is clear. Early detection of oral cancer increases the chance of being cured, however, when left untreated, oral cancer can lead to fatal results. AAOMS, along with the Oral Cancer Foundation, predicts that there will be 53,000 new oral cancer cases in the United States in 2019, which will lead to more than 9,000 deaths.
The following six-step oral cancer self-exam is encouraged by the AAOMS:
- First remove any dentures.
- Look and feel inside the lips and the front of the gums.
- Tilt the head back and inspect and feel the roof of the mouth.
- Pull the cheek out to inspect it and the gums in the back.
- Pull out the tongue and look at its top and bottom.
- Feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes in both sides of the neck, including under the lower jaws.
Some oral cancer symptoms may include the following: red, white or black patches in the soft tissue of the mouth; a sore in the mouth that doesn’t heal within two weeks and bleeds easily; an abnormal lump or hard spot in the mouth; a painless, firm, fixated mass or lump felt on the outside of the neck that has been present for at least two weeks; difficulty swallowing, including a feeling food is caught in the throat; chronic sore throat, hoarseness or coughing; and a chronic earache on one side.