According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, nearly 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer in 2016. Nearly 10,000 will die. One reason so many will die is simply because they do not realize they have symptoms until it is too late. Unlike some other cancers, oral cancer is completely painless in most cases, so you must know what to check for.
The Head and Neck
While it may not seem that your head and neck could be directly related to oral cancer, it is actually one of the most important places to check for symptoms. Perform a self-examination by feeling for lumps, bumps or other areas that do not feel the same as they used to. You might also feel sensitivity or soreness. Ask your dentist to check your throat for symptoms as well.
Cheeks are another common area for people to have symptoms of oral cancer. You must check for bumps and swelling on the inside of your cheek. To do this, place your index finger inside of your cheek and your thumb on the outside. Gently squeeze while moving your fingers around the area to feel for anomalies.
Oral cancer can form on the lips without you ever realizing you have it, so it is very important for you to check the inside of your lips. To do this, use a compact mirror for a better view. Pull your lips out one at a time to check the inside for any bumps, small protrusions or discoloration. Lips are highly susceptible to bumps and bruises from chewing, so you may not need to worry right away, but if the issue does not disappear within a few days, you should seek an appointment with your dentist.
The tongue is another common place for cancer to appear without any noticeable symptoms. During your self-examination, stick out your tongue and use a small mirror to check for lumps, bumps or discoloration on the top or bottom of your tongue. You may also notice swelling or an odd texture if you have oral cancer on your tongue.
When caught early enough, oral cancer can often be completely removed with surgical procedures, which greatly increases your chances of never having another issue. In more serious cases, your dentist or oncologist at Oral & Facial Surgeons of Arizona may recommend radiation or chemotherapy. Although oral cancer can strike any person, you should stop using tobacco products immediately to greatly decrease your chances of being diagnosed.