When you go for your regular checkup and the dentist or dental hygienist examines your teeth, he isn't just looking for cavities. He's also looking for anything abnormal anywhere in the mouth, including oral cancer signs that may warrant further investigation or testing. Oral cancer includes cancer in all parts of the mouth, as well as cancers of the throat and esophagus. While there are several outwardly visible signs of oral cancer, there are also more subtle symptoms that you should pay attention to and mention to your dentist.
One of the most common signs of oral cancer is discoloration and sores on the throat, gums, tongue, and other mouth areas. While it is normal for your tongue to turn slightly different colors depending on the foods you eat (think about what happens when you drink a blue slushee), persistent discoloration that cannot be attributed to something else should be mentioned to your practitioner. Any sores that bleed easily and don't seem to be healing within a normal amount of time may also be cause for concern. White or red patches in the mouth can indicate oral cancer, but it is important to check for other reasons, as well. For instance, a persistent white coating on the tongue may indicate thrush, which is easily treatable with antifungals from your doctor. Also be on the lookout for an abnormal irritation, lumps, or numb patches in the mouth and tongue.
Other, less pronounced symptoms of oral cancer can include a constant feeling of something in the back of your throat. A persistent sore throat or hoarse voice without other signs of illness or problems chewing or swallowing should also be checked out. If you are having trouble breathing or find that you cannot swallow at all, seek medical attention.
Several of these oral cancer signs could have other, less dramatic causes, so it is important to always report any unusual symptoms to your dentist. The earlier any suspected oral cancer is found, the better the survival rates. While your dentist will perform routine checks during your regular examination, and may even check for oral cancer using special diagnostic equipment, make sure to report any new or unusual developments in between checkups with a phone call or visit.