What to Expect from an Oral Cancer Exam
It's easy to schedule an oral cancer exam -- your dentist can perform an oral cancer exam as a standalone appointment or during one of your regular dental visits.
A professional oral cancer exam is both visual and tactile. Using both hands, your dentist will examine:
- The roof and floor of your mouth, as well as the back of your throat
- The base of your tongue and its underside to check for swelling or abnormal color or texture
- The insides of your lips and cheeks to check for signs such as red or white patches
- The area under your jaw and the side of your neck to check for lumps that may suggest cancer
Any areas that look suspicious will require a biopsy, which involves the removal of tissue for microscopic examination. A biopsy is the only definitive way to determine whether or not you have oral cancer.
Oral cancer doesn't have to be an unwelcome surprise -- you can take an active role in detecting oral cancer. If you think you might be at risk, give yourself an oral cancer self-exam at least once a month.
Look for warning signs inside the mouth such as:
- White or red spots, patches or lesions
- Lumps, rough spots or crusted areas
- A change in the way your teeth fit together
And watch out for other symptoms including:
- A change in your voice
- A lump in your neck
- Drastic weight loss
If you detect any of these symptoms and they persist for more than two weeks, don't wait to visit your dentist for a professional oral cancer exam.