This is one of the few times when I combine dentistry (my profession) with a response to the daily post. I’d much rather have written a poem or a short story; but this is very important. I’ve noticed that when it comes to running a self-exam for cancer, we’ve been told to check our breasts (women and men) or our testicles (men – of course). But rarely do we check our mouths for peculiar changes.
What are we searching for?

Lumps, bumps or unexplained lesions. Pre-cancerous signs range from swellings to white patches to painless ulcers. In fact, any change, especially if un-explained, warrants a closer look.

In the past year, I’ve picked up 6 lesions in patients’ mouths that have warranted further hospital  investigation. This  involves a biopsy to see if these are pre-cancerous or  cancerous lesions.

It’s important to have regular checks with your dentist, as he/she will be able to check the soft tissues in your mouth- as well as your teeth and gums.

It may not occur to you to self-examine at home, but it’s important to be as familiar with your mouth as much as possible. Granted, your vision will be limited but an awareness of potential problems is essential. Investing in a mouth mirror will help with this excercise.

Where to look? mouth-mirror

Your tongue- all sides, under your tongue, your inner cheeks and the roof of your mouth  (palate).

Factors that can increase your risk of mouth cancer include:

  • Tobacco use of any kind,
  • Heavy alcohol use (here in the UK we encourage the use of alcohol-free mouthwashes)
  • Excessive sun exposure to your lips,
  • a sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus (HPV) and
  • A weakened immune system

This is serious stuff, folks. Keep your dental appointments and look after yourselves!

– Vivian Zems

Daily Post- Peculiar

Images and risk factors, courtesy of The Mayo Clinic