Head & Neck Cancer: Self Exam

Head-and-Neck-Cancer-Self-ExamRegular head and neck exams are extremely important when it comes to diagnosing problems with the head and neck such as cancer. A thorough head and neck examination is part of the service we provide when patients are seen for their regular teeth cleaning and examination checkups. If you have noticed anything strange or different on the inside or outside of your mouth or your neck please be sure to bring it to our attention. If you notice a change in between dental checkups, please call out office for an examination appointment. It’s also good to perform a “self-check” from time to time. Let’s go over how to do an at-home check and what you should be looking out for.

Step 1: Know what you’re looking for. Oral cancer signs include:

  • A difference in color in one particular area
  • A change in texture
  • Lumps of any kind (especially if it’s something you haven’t noticed before)
  • Lesions
  • A sore that does not heal
  • A lump or thickening of the lining of your mouth
  • Loose teeth/Poorly fitting dentures
  • Pain in the tongue or jaw
  • Difficult chewing and/or swallowing

Step 2: Take a bright light such as a flashlight and while looking in a mirror, check the following:

  • Tongue
  • Lips
  • Cheek walls
  • Top and bottom of mouth
  • Back of throat

If you notice any of the above signs, give us a call immediately to schedule an appointment. It’s also beneficial to perform an extra-oral screening. When performing an extra-oral exam on yourself, you want to feel for any lumps or bumps. Here are the steps for doing this exam at home:

Step 1: Place your hands on the back of each side of your jaw under your ears. Open and close your jaw while feeling for any bumps.

Step 2: With your hands in the same position work your way down your neck.

Step 3: Turn your head to the right and feel your left side-neck muscles. Turn your head left and feel your right side neck muscles.

Step 4: Grab your gullet (throat) and swallow.

Step 5: Put your chin down and with your palms facing away from you feel the underside of your jaw with your fingers.

We hope we don’t have to see you in the office if you’ve discovered something wrong but we are here to help. We can catch the early signs of oral cancer! If you feel anything strange, call us to schedule an appointment.

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