It has been estimated by Canadian Cancer Statistics that approximately three people in Canada per day will die from oral cancer. As with any cancer, early detection is key! Did you know that every time you visit your dental office for a routine visit, you receive an oral cancer screening? This is done by either your dentist or your dental hygienist. Is this enough, though? Many people only visit their dental office every 3-6 months. It is very important that you get to know what is normal for your mouth so that you are able to identify any potential areas of concern early.
Guide to Oral Cancer Self-Screening
An oral cancer self-screening is something you can do at home once per month to ensure you are not missing any changes in your mouth.
- Check your lips for in asymmetry or discolouration. Any cut or blister that does not heal is also a reason to book an appointment with your dental health care professional.
- Use fingers of both hands to palpate lips and cheeks looking for any lumps or thickening of the tissues.
- Use a tissue to thoroughly check your tongue. Paying close attention to both sides as well as underneath the tongue. Assess for white or red patches or for lesions or lumps that do not heal.
- Using the light on your smartphone, check the back of your throat and your palate. Again, you are looking for red or white lesions that don’t heal, inflammation or enlargement of the tonsils (especially if only one tonsil) or any area that bleeds.
- Still using your light, check all around the inside of the mouth looking for any new lesions or discolourations.
While a history of regular alcohol and tobacco use or HPV infection can put you at a higher risk of developing oral cancer, this is not always the case. There are many people who are diagnosed with none of the risk factors.
Please check out this article and video outlining how to complete a very thorough oral cancer self-screening. Getting to know what is normal for you is the first step to identifying anything concerning. While we certainly hope this never happens, our team is very happy you have taken the time to read this and hopefully you will now have an idea very early if something isn’t quite right. As always, reach out to our dentist in Barrie with any questions! We are always here to help!