The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and coral pink in color. Any alteration in this appearance could be a warning sign for a pathological process. The most serious of these is oral cancer. The following can be signs at the beginning of a pathologic process or cancerous growth:
- Reddish patches (erythroplasia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth.
- A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily.
- A lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth.
- Chronic sore throat or hoarseness. Difficulty in chewing or swallowing.
- Focal, unexplained, pigmented area in the mouth
These changes can be detected on the lips, cheeks, palate, and gum tissue around the teeth, tongue, face and/or neck. Pain does not always occur with pathology, and curiously, is not often associated with oral cancer. However, any patient with facial and/or oral pain without an obvious cause or reason may also be at risk for oral cancer.
Oral cancer is treatable if detected early, but can be devastating in late stages. The use of tobacco (smoking and smokeless) substantially increases the chance of oral cancer. The combined use of tobacco and alcohol causes high risk.
We would recommend performing an oral cancer self-examination monthly and remember that your mouth is one of your body’s most important warning systems. Do not ignore suspicious lumps, lesions, or pigmented areas in your mouth. Please contact us so we may help.