How to Perform an Oral Cancer Self-Examination

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month.  With close to 53,000 Americans being diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer this year, early detection is extremely important.  While we offer a complimentary  oral screening at every appointment, performing an occasion self-examination is crucial.  Below you will see the steps to take in order to perform an oral cancer self-examination.  For this, you will need a piece of gauze and a wall mirror.

It’s important to recognize the normal healthy condition of your own mouth so that you can detect abnormal conditions and report anything unusual to a dental or a medical specialist.

  • Look at yourself in the mirror – both sides of your face and neck should look the same.
  • Look at the skin on your neck and face for any changes in color, moles that have changed, lumps or sores.
  • Feel both sides of your neck gently with your fingertips to help detect lumps, bumps and sore spots.
  • Gently place your finger over your “Adam’s Apple” and swallow. It should move up and down, not to the side. Report any hoarseness that doesn’t clear up within two weeks.
  • Remove any dentures or appliances from your mouth.
  • Check the inside of your mouth first by using a flashlight, then by putting the small mirror in your mouth, if you are able to do this.
  • Check the roof of your mouth for changes in color or lumps. With your index finger, gently press the roof of your mouth to feel for changes.
  • Examine the floor of your mouth and feel it with your index finger. Remember, you are looking for color changes, swelling and changes in shape.
  • With a piece of gauze between your finger and thumb, pull out your tongue and examine all sides – feel your tongue with your fingers.
  • Look at your gums for color change, lumps, bumps or tenderness. Report any sores that have not healed after 14 days.
  • Pull your upper lip up and then your lower lip down and check. Gently squeeze your lips as well as your cheeks with your index finger and thumb to feel for lumps, bumps or tenderness. Report any pain, loss of feeling or any areas that bleed without cause.
  • Gently run your index finger over your upper and lower gums. If you find anything unusual or suspicious, report your findings to us!