Oral Cancer Exam
Dentists are trained in a quick screening which involves the examination of the oral cavity as a whole and not just your teeth. Besides a visual examination of all the tissues in your mouth, your doctor will feel the floor of your mouth and portions of the back of your throat in the search for abnormalities. A thorough oral screening also includes indirect examination of the nasopharynx and larynx, and involves manually feeling the neck for swollen lymph nodes, and other abnormalities such as hardened masses.
Your doctor will also check the mouth for white patches, red patches, ulcerations, lumps, loose teeth, and review your dental x-rays for abnormalities. Be sure to tell the doctor if you have been a tobacco user in any form. Tobacco use is implicated in many cases of oral cancer.
After the physical examination of your mouth, if your doctor finds any areas that are suspicious, he may recommend a biopsy. This is simply taking a small portion of the suspicious tissue for examination under a microscope.
It is possible that you will notice some change in your mouth or throat that needs examination between your annual screenings. You are the most important factor in an early diagnosis. You should always contact your doctor or dentist immediately if you notice the following symptoms in yourself or a loved one:
- A sore or lesion in the mouth that does not heal within two weeks.
- A lump or thickening in the cheek.
- A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth.
- A sore throat or a feeling that something is caught in the throat.
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing.
- Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue.
- Numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth.
- Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable.
- Chronic hoarseness.