The Mouth Cancer Foundation is using November's Mouth Cancer Action Month to encourage people to Bite Back at Mouth Cancer, a simple head and neck cancer check which can be carried out by anyone at home, at any time, but ideally once per month.
There are easy to do self-check tests for a variety of other cancers but there is nothing similar for mouth, head or neck cancer. Bite Back at Mouth Cancer shows members of the public what to look for and how to seek help if they find something out of the ordinary. They will become familiar with the signs and symptoms to look out for and learn to act sooner.
GP and TV Doctor, Dr Dawn Harper is backing the initiative and has taken part in a video to clearly show how to carry out the examination. She says "It is recommended that the self-check is done once a month after teeth have been cleaned and by everyone over the age of 16 years. It takes less than two minutes. To carry out the mouth test all you need is a mirror, good light source and clean fingers. It is that simple. At each step you are inspecting and feeling for any lumps, red or white patches, changes in colour or texture, lingering ulcers or anything unusual".
The Bite Back at Mouth Cancer self-examination has been devised by Mouth Cancer Foundation Ambassadors, Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, Mahesh Kumar and Dentist Philip Lewis.
The Self Examination
Face: 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.
Neck: 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?
Lips: 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.
Gums: 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.
Tongue: 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. Look to see if there are changes in colour or ulcers. Check for changes in texture with your finger.
Dentist Philip Lewis says "Make a note of anything unusual. If you have recently had a cold, sore throat, ulcer or swollen glands, bitten or scolded yourself for example, these should heal within 3 weeks. If you have any concerns visit your dentist or doctor to see if you need specialist advice".
Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, Mahesh Kumar says "Mouth cancer is becoming a major health care concern so it is important to catch it early. Bite Back at Mouth Cancer will play a key role in the early detection of mouth cancer. As mouth cancer is on the increase around the world, we urge everyone to take responsibility for their own oral health. Early diagnosis is imperative in order to save lives. Dentists can also advise patients how to screen and effectively examine their own mouths".
Head and neck cancers are particularly vicious and debilitating when detected late. Patients who survive are a huge drain on medical resources for the rest of their lives, in terms of post-operative and the psychological care required. With earlier detection, lives are saved and costs on the NHS will reduce dramatically.
Oral cancers are often painless so in addition it is important to be aware of the general signs and symptoms of mouth cancer which include:
- An ulcer or white or red patch anywhere in the mouth that does not heal within 3 weeks.
- A lump or swelling anywhere in the mouth, jaw or neck that persists for more than 3 weeks.
- A difficulty in swallowing, chewing or moving the jaw or tongue.
- A numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth.
- A feeling that something is caught in the throat.
- A chronic sore throat or hoarseness that persists more than 6 weeks.
- An unexplained loosening of teeth with no dental cause.
For more information and the full check visit http://www.mouthcancerfoundation.org/get-involved/bite-back-mouth-cancer.