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Oral Cancer Self Examination

This outline is to guide you through a self examination for oral cancer. The outlines list each area to examine and the kind of changes that may be significant to bring to the attention of your dentist. 
You are looking for any of the following changes:

  1. Sores on the face, neck or mouth that don't heal in 2 weeks.
  2. White or dark red patches in the mouth.
  3. Swelling, lumps, bumps or growths.
  4. Pain or numbness in the face, neck or mouth.

To conduct the exam you need a face mirror, good light, your eyes, and fingers. 

Face: Begin with the hairline and look for any changes in skin color, including moles, lumps, bumps and sores. Both sides of your face and neck should have the same size, shape and form. Feel the entire face with your fingertips for lumps and numbness. 

Side of Neck: Using your right hand, feel the front and back of the left large muscle running from your ear to collarbone. Feel under the jaw from the ear to the chin. Repeat on the right side using the left hand. 

Center of Neck: Find the "Adam's apple" and place your fingers against it and swallow; it should move. Feel for lumps and soreness on both sides to the collar bone. 

Lips: Pull down your lower lip, look for sores or color change. Squeeze your lip checking for swelling, tenderness and color change. 

Cheeks: Place your thumb on the outside of your cheek and the index finger on the inside and gently squeeze your cheek. Note any swelling, lumps or soreness. Then pull back your cheek so you can see the tissue and look for color changes such as red, white or dark areas. Repeat the other cheek. 

Gums: Look on the inside and outside of your gums for lumps, bleeding, red and white areas. If you wear dentures, look for white or red areas on the gums. Are there any sores that have not healed for longer than 14 days? 

Tongue and floor of mouth: Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Look for sores
under the tongue. With you finger feel the floor of your mouth for lumps or growths. Extend your tongue out and look and feel the top and the sides and note any color change, lumps or sores. 

Roof of mouth: With an index finger gently press against the roof of the mouth to feel for lumps, swelling or soreness. 

NOTE: The oral exam should not take the place of professional dental care. Any areas that appear
abnormal should be reported to a dentist or physician. 

For more information, call the American Cancer Society toll free. 1-800-ACS-2345 or via Internet www.cancer.org