What are the signs of oral cancer?

At your regular dental hygiene appointments, typically, the dentist drops in and takes a look at your teeth and mouth. One of the things the dentist is looking for during these exams is signs of oral cancer. If any of those signs are discovered, you may be referred to the oral surgeon for biopsy and diagnosis.

You don’t have to wait until your next dental appointment to have an examination for oral cancer. The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (known as AAOMS) recommends self-exam as a key to early detection, and it is something you can easily do yourself. Just as you would call your dentist if you get a toothache, contact your dentist if you notice any signs of oral cancer.

When completing an oral self-exam, look for the following signs and symptoms:

  1. Red patches (erythroplakia)
  2. White patches (leukoplakia)
  3. Red and White patches (erythroleukoplakia)
  4. Sores, especially ones that fail to heal or bleed easily
  5. Lumps or thickened tissue in the mouth or neck
  6. Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  7. Chronic sore throat or hoarseness

Remember, just because your dentist has referred you to the oral surgeon for further diagnosis, it does not necessarily mean that you will have a positive cancer diagnosis. Many patients seen by the oral surgeon don’t require biopsy, and many patients that do require biopsy are not diagnosed with cancer. Even if these signs and symptoms don’t end in a cancer diagnosis, they can still signal a serious medical condition that needs treatment and should not be ignored.

Each year an estimated 49,750 new oral cancer cases are diagnosed, and early detection is the key to treatment and survival.

This information and more can be found at www.MyOMS.org/OralCancerAwareness