The do-it-yourself mouth cancer check that may save your life
“Are you checking your mouth for cancer once a month? Carry out this pioneering self-check from the Mouth Cancer Foundation on a regular basis and safe guard your future health”.
GP & TV Doctor, Dr Dawn Harper
On the 15th of this month the Mouth Cancer Foundation launched 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.
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.
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. 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.
Look out for Bite Back at Mouth Cancer leaflets and posters in Dentist and GP surgeries as well as in Pharmacies across the UK. For more information and the full check visit Bite-back-mouth-cancer