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Photos Showing Self Oral Cancer Exam and Information

Photos Showing Self Oral Cancer Evaluation

We have featured a couple blogs about evaluating your own dental work.  I feel it is very important to take an active roll in the health of your mouth.  The more familiar you are with what is going on in your own mouth, the more you will be able to determine when something changes or when something is not healthy!  Screening for oral cancer might just save your life! We all need to be proactive about our own health care and the health care of our loved ones.

Please let your dentist or oral surgeon know if you have sores in your mouth that do not heal within two weeks or if you have discolored areas that seem to be spreading or changing or if you have any questions about your oral health.  Note that pain is not an indication of a problem – several oral lesions do not hurt!

Examine the lips for color changes/irritation

http://oralcancerfoundation.org/facts/ gives us the following information:

Oral Cancer Facts

Rates of occurrence in the United States

Close to 40,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 8,000 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day.        Of those 40,000 newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years. (Approximately 57%) This is a number which has not significantly improved in decades. The death rate for oral cancer is higher than that of cancers which we hear about routinely such as cervical cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, laryngeal cancer, cancer of the  testes, and endocrine system cancers such as thyroid, or skin cancer (malignant melanoma).
Oral cancers are part of a group of cancers commonly referred to as head and neck cancers, and of all head and neck cancers they comprise about 85% of that category. Brain cancer is a cancer category unto itself, and  is not included in the head and neck cancer group.

Lift the upper lip and examine this tissue and the gums around the teeth. Also,examine the inside of the lower lip and the gums.

Historically the death rate associated with this cancer is particularly high not because it is hard to discover or diagnose, but due to the cancer being routinely discovered late in its development. Today, (2012) that statement is still true, as there is not a comprehensive program in the US to opportunistically screen for the disease, and without that; late stage discovery is more common. Another obstacle to early discovery (and resulting better outcomes) is the advent of a virus, HPV16, contributing more to the incidence rate of oral cancers, particularly in the posterior part of the mouth (the oropharynx, the tonsils, the base of tongue areas) which many times does not produce visible lesions or discolorations that have historically been the early warning signs of the disease process.

Examine both cheeks front to back and note any changes

Stick the tongue out as far as you can - this may be a good time to brush your tongue as well!

Often oral cancer is only discovered when the cancer has metastasized to another location, most likely the lymph nodes of the neck. Prognosis at this stage of discovery is significantly worse than when it is caught in a localized intra oral area. Besides the metastasis, at these later stages, the primary tumor has had time to invade deep into local structures.       

Examine both sides of the tongue as far back as you can

Lift your tongue up and examine here. Become familiar with the veins and different colors that are normal here.

Oral cancer is particularly dangerous because in its early stages it may not be noticed. It can frequently progress without producing pain or symptoms that you might easily recognize, and because oral cancer has a high risk of producing second tumors.
This means that patients who survive a first encounter with the disease, have up to a 20 times higher risk of developing a second cancer. This heightened risk factor can last for 5 to 10 years after the first occurrence. There are several types of oral cancers, but around 90% are squamous cell carcinomas.
Examine the top of your mouth – your palate.
If you would like to see images of your teeth or your mouth what is being evaluated or treated, please ask us!  Our office would be happy to explain in as much detail as you would like what is going on in your mouth.   Our office is located in Grand Junction, Colorado.  Our phone number is (970) 242-3635.  Please visit us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/juliegillisddspc) or call us if you have any questions or concerns.

Restoring Smiles – Restoring Health

Julie Gillis DDS