How Often Should You Perform Oral Cancer Self-Examination?

Early detection is the key to surviving any health condition, including oral cancer. It can significantly improve your chances of successful treatment. It’s why dentists always recommend having regular oral cancer screening. Besides an oral cancer screening conducted at the dentist’s office, you should also perform oral cancer self-examination.


It’s much easier to check your neck, throat, and oral cavity than to examine the other parts of your body, particularly your internal organs. If it’s oral cancer self-examination, performing it once a month is a recommendation. It is a short exam, taking only two to three minutes, but it can save your life.



What Do Oral Cancers Look Like?


Before performing an oral examination, you should know what oral cancer looks like. Cancers in the mouth come in either red patches or white patches. Of the two, red patches are a little more concerning, but you should have them both checked if they don’t get better after 14 days. Pre-cancers can also look like bumps or lumps that grow out of tissues.


Other signs include:


  • Sores that don’t heal and often bleed

  • Chronic sore throat

  • Hoarseness

  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing


These patches can occur inside the cheeks or the upper and lower lip. They can appear on the tongue or the roof of the mouth. Sometimes, they can even show up behind the molars. Red patches are considered more concerning, but dentists aren’t sure why. They only know that red patches are more likely to become mouth cancers.



How to Perform Oral Cancer Self-Examination


It’s easy to conduct an oral cancer examination on yourself. You only need a mirror, a bright light, and to follow the steps below. Before anything, ensure you have clean hands since you also have to feel the inside of your mouth.




Check your face for any changes, like swelling, moles, or lumps that weren’t there before. See if anything is swelling, bleeding, or itching. Inspect your skin for anything out of the ordinary.




See any swellings on your neck by running your fingers along the jaw. Check either side of your neck. Feel if there’s anything different there, like a lump that wasn’t there before.




Feel inside your mouth using your thumb, middle fingers, and index. Look inside to check for sores, patches, or any color changes. Feel around the inside of your lips for any changes in texture, like the presence of lumps or bumps.




Check the inside and outside of your gums using your thumb and forefinger. Feel around the gum for anything abnormal, like bumps, lumps, sores, or patches.




Open your mouth wide and pull your cheeks to one side to check inside. Again, look for white or red patches, ulcers, lumps, bumps, or tenderness. Do this again on the other side, checking and feeling for signs of cancer.




Inspect the tongue, gently pulling it out to look at one side and then at the other. Check for ulcers, sores, swelling, or any color changes. Don’t forget to inspect the underside as well.


The Floor of the Mouth


Lift the tip of your tongue to check the floor of your mouth for any signs of oral cancer. Check for color changes, sores, ulcers, and red or white patches. Feel the base of your mouth with your fingers for any swellings, bumps, and lumps.


The Roof of the Mouth


The last step is to check the roof of your mouth, which you can do by tilting your head. Open your mouth wide to check for any color changes or ulcers. Feel around with your finger to see if there are any texture changes.


Besides monthly oral cancer self-examination, the Mouth Cancer Foundation suggests that people over 16 get a professional oral cancer screening once a year.


For more information on oral cancer self-examinations, contact Weston Center for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at (954) 507-6441 or visit our clinic in Weston, Florida, today.

9:00am - 4:00pm 9:00am - 4:00pm 9:00am - 4:00pm 9:00am - 4:00pm Emergency Hours Available Emergency Hours Available Emergency Hours Available Dr. Nathan Eberle MD, DDS, FACS,3,,,