The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and coral pink in color. Any alteration in the appearance could be a warning sign for a pathological process. The most serious of these is oral cancer. The following can be signs at the beginning of a pathologic process or cancerous growth:
- Reddish patches (erythroplakia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth.
- A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily.
- A lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth.
- Chronic sore throat or hoarseness.
- Difficulty in chewing or swallowing.
Detecting Warning Signs
These changes can be detected on the lips, cheeks, palate and gum tissue around the teeth, tongue, face and / or neck. Pain does not always occur with pathology and is not often associated with oral cancer. However, any patient with facial and/or oral pain without an obvious cause may also be at risk for oral cancer.
We recommend performing an oral cancer self-examination monthly, as well as visiting your dentist every 6 months for an oral screening. Your mouth is one of your body’s most important warning systems. Do not ignore suspicious lumps or sores.
How to Perform a Monthly Self-Exam
Using a bright light and mirror:
- Remove dentures, if any
- Look and feel inside the lips and the front of the gums
- Tilt head back to inspect the roof of the mouth
- Pull the cheek out to see the inside surface, as well as the back of the gums
- Inspect every surface of the tongue
- Feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes on both sides of the neck