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This Two-Minute Test Could Save Your Life

Updated: Nov 20, 2020

There are over 8,300 new cases of mouth cancer diagnosed every year in the UK, and sadly, over 2,700 lives are lost.

Today is Mouth Cancer Awareness Day, which is part of an annual month-long campaign in November that raises awareness of risk factors, signs and symptoms of mouth cancers.

Examining yourself once a month using this guide could save your life. All you need is good light, a mirror and clean hands.

The following are signs of mouth cancer that you should be looking out for:

  • Ulcers or red or white patches anywhere in the mouth that do not heal in three weeks

  • A lump or swelling anywhere in the mouth, jaw or neck that persists for more than three weeks

  • Difficulty swallowing, chewing or moving the jaw or tongue

  • Numbness of the tongue or any other area of the mouth

  • A feeling that something is stuff in the throat

  • A chronic sore throat or hoarseness that persists more than 6 weeks

  • Unexplained loss of teeth

Follow this step by step guide, looking for anything unusual at each step stage. If you spot anything of concern, visit your dentist or hygienist immediately.

1. Face: Look at your whole face. Are they any swellings you haven’t noticed before? Check your skin – do you have any moles that have become larger or itchy or started to bleed? Turn your head from side to side, stretching the skin over the muscles to see lumps more easily.

2. Neck: Run your fingers under your jaw and feel along the large muscle on either side of your neck. Use the balls of your fingers to feel for any swellings and to check if both sides feel the same.

3. Lips: Use your index, middle finger and thumb to feel the inside of your mouth. Pull your upper lip upwards and bottom lip downwards. Look inside for any ulcers or changes in colour.

4. Gums: Use your thumb and forefinger. Examine your gums feeling around for anything unusual.

5. Cheeks: Open your mouth and pull your cheek away, one side at a time. Look for any red or white patches. Does everything look and feel the same on both sides? Use a finger to feel for ulcers, lumps or tenderness. Repeat this on both sides. Your tongue can be helpful to locate sore areas, ulcers or rough patches

6. Tongue: Stick your tongue out and check the whole surface. Pull your tongue from one side and then to the other. Check under your tongue by putting the tip of your tongue in the roof of your mouth.

7. Floor and roof of mouth: Tilt your head back and open wide to inspect the roof of your mouth. Lift your tongue and look under in the floor of your mouth. Look for any colour changes or ulcers. Gently press your finger along the floor of your mouth and under your tongue, feeling for any swellings, lumps or ulcers.

If you spotted anything of concern, book an appointment with me today. You are especially at risk if any of these risk factors ring true to you:

  • You smoke. Tobacco is the main cause of oral cancer

  • You drink a lot. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol increases your risk of oral cancer by four. Drinkers and smokers are 30 times more likely to develop oral cancer

  • You don’t eat right. Poor diet and social deprivation is linked to a third of all cancer cases.

  • You have HPV. The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), transmitted through unprotected oral sex, could overtake tobacco and alcohol as the main risk factor within the next decade.

  • You don’t wear sunscreen. Exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer which affects the face and lips.


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