Because the inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) which is smooth and pink in color, changes can easily be seen, and oral cancer can be detected in the early stages. Performing self-examinations regularly will help in early detection of pathologic processes. Ideally, self-examinations should be done once a month. If you are a smoker, drinker, or a user of smokeless tobacco, you are at higher risk of oral cancer and should see an oral surgeon for an exam.
The following can be signs of a pathologic process or cancerous growth:
- Reddish patches
- Whitish patches
- A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
- A lump or thickening of tissue
- Chronic sore throat, hoarseness
- Difficulty chewing and swallowing
Pain does not always occur with pathology and is often not associated with oral cancer. However, if you experience pain without an obvious cause, you may be at risk for oral cancer.