Many people are unaware that, in its very early stages, mouth cancers can be almost invisible making them easy to ignore. This is why it’s so important to keep a close eye on the health of your mouth as the chances of survival are significantly improved if the cancer is detected early and rapidly treated.
To make it easier to check for mouth cancer, the Mouth Cancer Foundation has come up with a new life-saving initiative called ‘Bite Back at Mouth Cancer’ – a do-it-yourself check which may just save your life!
It’s recommended that everyone over the age of 16 does this two minute self-check once a month, after teeth have been cleaned. All you need to carry out the mouth test is:
- A mirror
- A good light source
- Clean fingers.
At each step you are inspecting and feeling for any lumps, red or white patches and changes in colour or texture, lingering ulcers or anything unusual.
Look at the whole face.
- Are there any swellings you haven’t noticed before?
- Inspect your skin. Has anything changed recently?
- Have moles become larger or started to itch or bleed?
- Turn your head from side to side. This stretches the skin over the muscles making lumps easier to see.
- Run the fingers under your jaw and feel along the large muscle either side of neck using the balls of your fingers. Are there any swellings? Does everything feel the same on both sides?
- Using your index, middle fingers and thumb to feel the inside of your mouth.
- Pull your upper lip upwards and bottom lip downwards to look inside for any sores or changes in colour.
- Use your thumb and forefinger to feel around and inside your lips checking for any lumps, bumps or changes in texture.
- Use your thumb and forefinger on the inside and outside of the gum working your way around the gum to feel for anything unusual.
Check Your Cheeks
- Open your mouth and pull your cheeks away, one side at a time, with your finger to look inside. Look for any red or white patches.
- Use your finger in the cheek to check for ulcers, lumps or tenderness.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Your tongue can be helpful to locate sore areas, ulcers or rough patches.
- Gently pull out your tongue and look at one side first and then the other.
- Look for any swelling, ulcer or change in colour.
- Examine the underside of your tongue by lifting the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
Floor of Mouth
- Lift your tongue up and look underneath then look at the floor of your mouth for any colour changes that are unusual.
- Gently press your finger along the floor of your mouth and underside your tongue to feel for any lumps, swellings or ulcers.
Roof of Mouth
- Tilt back your head and open your mouth wide to check the roof of your mouth.
- Alternatively, use a small mouth mirror to see the roof of your mouth.
- Look to see if there are changes in colour or ulcers. Check for changes in texture with your finger.
If you find anything during your check that raises any concerns, visit your dentist or doctor to seek their opinion. The Mouth Cancer Foundation recommends that everyone over the age of 16 sees their dentist once a year to check for early signs of mouth cancer.