It’s Mouth Cancer Action Month in November and it serves as a reminder to us all to keep an eye on any trouble spots inside our mouths.
Over the coming months, the Oral Health Foundation is raising awareness of the signs of possible mouth cancer, offering tips on what we can do to avoid the risks, advising on why we should all see a dentist regularly and revealing the differences early detection can make.
Dr Nigel Carter, from the Foundation, says that the secret to success in our battle against the rising number of cases lies in catching it early by recognising the warning signs of the disease.
According to statistics, our chances of survival rocket to 90% from 50% with early detection, which is why regular dental screenings are so important.
Ulcers that fail to heal within three weeks, red or white patches and any unusual swellings are things to look out for.
But, ultimately, booking an appointment with your dentist is the best form of prevention.
At a dental screening, your dentist or dental hygienist will take the following steps when carrying out a mouth cancer check:
1. Look at your face and neck to check symmetry and look for lumps, bumps or swellings
2. Feel and press along the sides and front of your neck to check for any tenderness or lumps
3. Pull down your lower lip and look inside for any sores or change in colour. Use their thumb and forefinger to feel your lips for lumps, bumps or changes in texture
4. Use their finger to pull out the cheek so they can see inside. Look for red, white or dark patches. Put an index finger inside your cheek and their thumb on the outside and gently squeeze and roll the cheek to check for any lumps, tenderness or ulcers
5. Tilt back your head and open your mouth wide to see if there are any lumps or if there is any change in colour. Run their ﬁnger on the roof of the mouth to feel for any lumps
6. Ask you to stick out your tongue and look at the surface for any changes in colour or texture. Gently pull out your tongue, holding it with a piece of gauze and look at one side first, then the other side. Look for any swelling, change in colour or ulcers. Examine the underside of your tongue by asking you to place the tip on the roof of your mouth
7. Look at the floor of your mouth for changes in colour that are different from normal. Gently press their finger along the floor of your mouth and underside of your tongue to feel for any lumps, swellings or ulcers.