What should I do if I have a suspicious lesion in my mouth?
If a lesion in your mouth concerns you, then you should have it checked out by a dentist or physician immediately. While chances are you are looking at a biting accident, irritation, burn or other type of an insignificant lesion, it is always best to have these suspicious lesion checked out right away. Not only will you not have to worry about what they are any longer, but you can be on the lookout for similar lesions in the future and exclude them whenever applicable.
Where could oral cancer show up?
Oral cancer can appear anywhere in the mouth including the lips, tongue, palate or just about anywhere else in the oral cavity. Your dentist can perform an oral cancer screening to determine what your suspicious lesion is. Three things typically happen at this point:
- Your dentist determines that your lesion is not oral cancer and tells you what the lesion is. No further treatment is required and the lesion will most likely resolve or does not need to be addressed any further.
- Your dentist performs a biopsy on the lesion. This way he or she can determine if the lesion contains pre-cancerous or cancerous cells for further examination.
- You will be referred to a dental specialist, such as an oral surgeon, who is more competent to examine your lesion.
High risks cases which are more likely to be oral cancer:
A standard oral cancer screening is quite basic. It involves a visual exam of the head and neck region as well as the oral cavity and lymph nodes in the head and neck region. If you have noticed a suspicious lesion, especially if you are a smoker or have a personal or familial history of cancer, then you should make an appointment and have your dentist further evaluate your lesion. Keep in mind that while certain individuals may be at higher risks for developing oral cancer, it can happen to anyone.
Exercise more caution if you are a high risk patients
Oral cancer can also occur without any previous signs or symptoms. Most dentists offer oral cancer screening routinely to their patients, but you can always request one if you have a suspicious lesion in your mouth. The goal is to try and catch any suspicious lesions while it is still in earlier stages and non-malignant. Here are cases which are considered at higher risk fro developing oral cancer:
- Oral cancer is much more prevalent in smokers
- It is also more common in heavy drinkers
- If you have had a history of any type of cancer this may place you at higher risk for oral cancer as well
- It is also suspected that HPV virus (Human Papillomavirus) can also increase your chance of developing oral cancer
Look for persistent red or white lesions or patches
First of all note that cancer lesions do not disappear by themselves. As such, any lesion that vanishes after a few days or weeks is most likely not going to be a cancerous lesion. Your dentist or oral surgeon can examine suspicious lesions via a biopsy to determine if they contain cancer cells or not. If you want to screen yourself periodically to look for any unusual lesions then here is what you should be on the lookout for:
- Oral cancer lesions are typically white or red lesions
- Lesions usually have irregular boarders and are nodular shaped
- They tend to be ulcerative, meaning that they can bleed, although this may not always be the case
- Cancer lesions do not disappear on their own. Wait a few days to see if the lesion is still there and if so, then after one to two weeks it is time to have it examined further by your dentist.
Oral cancer will eventually cause pain and lead to other systemic symptoms
Oral cancer lesions typically don’t cause any pain in their earlier stages, so don’t expect pain to be an indicator of whether or not the lesion is oral cancer. However, as the cancer progresses, you may start noticing pain and other symptoms. Here are signs of what to look out for in cases of more advanced oral cancer:
- Unexplained pain or numbness in the mouth or tongue area
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Difficulty moving and maneuvering your tongue or lips
- You might even start noticing that your teeth are not touching like they used to before
- Other symptoms can affect your entire body and includes unexplained weight loss and fatigue