If you notice a suspicious sore or a discolored spot in or around your mouth, you may wonder, “how do I know if I have mouth cancer?” Is there a way to detect mouth cancer? How can you get tested for mouth cancer? You may have a lot of questions. In this blog post, we’re going to try and address some of the questions you may have about mouth cancer.
How Do I Know if I Have Mouth Cancer?
If you notice a strange bump, lesion, or discoloration in your mouth, you may wonder, “how do I know if I have mouth cancer?” This can be a scary question to ask.
Many odd bumps or discolorations are not cancerous. Many that are cancerous can be treated effectively, especially when they’re detected early. Even if you have some risk factors for oral cancer, the bumps or discolorations you notice may be benign. The only way to know for sure if you have mouth cancer is to visit your dentist and get tested.
If you think you have mouth cancer, consider the risk factors first. If you have some or all of these risk factors, there’s a higher likelihood that you may have mouth cancer. This only means that you should make visiting your dentist a clear priority, it does not necessarily mean that you have mouth cancer.
These risk factors can increase your likelihood of having mouth cancer. If you have some or any of these risk factors, and you think you may have mouth cancer, visit your dentist as soon as possible:
- Family history of mouth cancer
- Tobacco use
- Alcohol use
- Exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Age over 40 years
What Are the Signs of Mouth Cancer?
If you think that you might have mouth cancer, you might be wondering, “what are the signs of mouth cancer?”
There are many ways that you or your dentist can look for signs of mouth cancer. The first step starts with looking for abnormal signs in or around your mouth. This might include your lips, gums, teeth, inside of your cheeks, and throat. You might notice any of the following signs:
- Discolored patches of skin
- Sore or painful patches of skin
- Raised, rough or scaly skin patches
- Difficulty speaking, tasting, or swallowing
- Voice changes
- Excessive bleeding
- Persistent sore throat
Keep in mind that these signs are not always signs of mouth cancer. There are many different things that can cause growths, sores, or discolorations, including irritation from food, warts, impacted teeth, sun exposure, and more. However, some growths that begin as benign can become malignant if they continue for too long. If you notice any of the above signs, you should visit your dentist as soon as possible to check for mouth cancer.
How Can I Get Tested for Mouth Cancer?
There are many ways to test for and detect different types of mouth cancer. The first test is performed by the dentist at your regular appointment. This includes a close visual inspection of your mouth and throat. Your dentist may use specialized lights or small mirrors to see parts of your mouth and throat that wouldn’t normally be visible. Your dentist may also apply gentle pressure to areas of your neck and face to check for any abnormal growths or swelling. If your dentist detects any suspicious areas during these checks, they may perform additional checks.
If there is an area in your mouth or throat that could be cancerous, your dentist or another expert will likely require additional tests and procedures. This may include a biopsy. During a biopsy, your dentist or doctor will extract cells from the area so they can be tested. This might include surgically extraction, scraping the surface of the area, or using a needle to extract cells. Your dentist or doctor may also ask for scans, such as an x-ray, CT scan, PET scan, or MRI. With these tests, your dentist or doctor can tell you with more certainty whether or not you have mouth cancer.
If you think you may have mouth cancer, you should visit your dentist right away. Though it can be scary to ask this question, it’s important to remember that mouth cancer is highly treatable, especially if you discover it early. Make an appointment at BDG today to get an oral cancer screening.