Oral Cancer Self Check

Open Wide and Look Inside. What you find could save your life!

Finding oral cancer early is possible. If you treat oral cancer early, it may lower your risk of death from it. You can often see and feel the changes in your mouth that are the early signs of oral cancer. You should do a monthly self-check for oral cancer because it could save your life.

  • In the U.S., one person dies from oral cancer every hour of every day.
  • Alcohol and tobacco, including smokeless tobacco, can cause oral cancer.
  • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can cause oral cancer. HPV is the same virus which is responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancers in women.
  • Any sore or discolored area of your mouth that does not heal within 14 days should be looked at by your dentist. These symptoms are often not from oral cancer. Other health problems can cause them. Tell your doctor or dentist if you have these problems so they can be diagnosed and treated early.

Perform a monthly Oral Cancer Check on yourself with these easy steps:

Face and Neck: Check your face and neck in the mirror. Look for any lumps, bumps or swellings that are only on one side. Feel and press along the sides and front of your neck for any lumps or tender areas.

Lips: Pull down your lower lip. Pull up on your upper lip. Look inside for any sores or change in color. Use your thumb and forefinger to feel the lip for lumps, bumps or changes of texture.

Cheeks: Pull out your cheek so that you can see inside. Look for ulcers, red, white or dark patches. Then put your finger on the inside of your cheek and your thumb on the outside and check for any lumps or tenderness. Do the same on the other side.

Palate: Tilt back your head and open your mouth so that you can see the roof of your mouth. Check for any lumps or color changes.

Tongue: Stick your tongue out and look at the surface. Gently pull your tongue out and look at one side then the other. Check for any surface or color changes. Look underneath the tongue by placing the tip of the tongue against the roof of the mouth and look for ulcers or white or red patches.

Floor of the mouth: Gently press along the floor of the mouth (under your tongue) for any swelling or lumps. Look at the tissue for any color or surface changes.

Throat: Open your mouth and look at the back of your throat. Look for swelling on one side of your throat. Report any symptoms of soreness and hoarseness, which does not go away in two weeks, to your dentist or doctor.

If you find anything out of the ordinary, particularly a sore that doesn’t heal within two weeks, consult your dentist or doctor.