Look, Feel, Checkup: Identifying the Signs of Oral Cancer

Ideally, we should all perform an oral cancer self-check every few months. Like breast and testicular self-checks, and oral cancer self-check consists of a careful visual and manual (touch-based) scan of your head, neck, and the inside of your mouth. Your chances of surviving oral cancer in the long term depend on early detection, and early detection depends on self-awareness and regular preventive dental care appointments. Follow a Look, Feel, and Checkup protocol to stay on top of your oral health.

Signs and Symptoms to Look For

A visual self-check for oral cancer should look for discolored patches, changes in the texture, or visible lumps/bumps in the following areas:

  • The surface, sides, and bottom of the tongue.
  • The inside surfaces of the top and bottom lips.
  • The insides of the cheeks.
  • The roof of the mouth (the hard and soft palate).
  • The floor of the mouth (the area beneath the tongue).
  • The face, particularly the jaw, cheeks, and lips.
  • The front and sides of the throat.

Signs and Symptoms You May Feel

A manual or touch-based scan of your neck, mouth, and face should check for lumps, bumps, and sore or tender spots. Include the following steps:

  • Use your fingertips to gently feel along the sides and front of the neck, the jaw, and face for lumps or tender/sore spots.
  • With your index finger on the inner cheek and your thumb on the outer cheek, gently feel for any lumps within the flesh of the cheek.
  • Run your tongue or your index finger along the inside of the dental arch (along the tongue-side gums) and between gums and the cheek.

Any abrasion, tender area, tightness in the throat, or sore throat that persists longer than three weeks should be checked out by your dentist or oral pathologist.

The Importance of Regular Checkups

Self-checks should always be complemented by periodic screenings with a dentist. Oral cancer screenings using a trained visual eye and imaging technology that can pinpoint even very small areas of abnormal cells are a normal part of most six-month dental checkups. Regular visits with a family dentist can help keep an eye on developing problems and prevent new problems from getting any worse.

About Shawn Hofkes, DDS

With advanced training in oral and maxillofacial surgery and oral pathology, Shawn Hofkes, DDS is qualified to diagnose and treat all stages of oral cancer from our comfortable, state-of-the-art dentist office in Cerritos, CA. To schedule your appointment or consultation with Dr. Hofkes, contact us today. We proudly serve patients of all ages from Cerritos, Lakewood, Long .hBeach, Buena Park, and all surrounding communities.