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Cancer Issues Author: Sheila Wolf, RDH Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:06:33 PM

Oral Cancer Awareness

By Sheila Wolf, RDH
Apr 21, 2014 - 3:50:33 PM

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( - A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with tongue cancer. She had suffered several months with burning in and around her tongue and tenderness in the floor of her mouth. Unfortunately, her dentist did not recognize it as cancer, and only after several visits to her regular MD and an oral surgeon for a biopsy was it finally diagnosed. In an eight hour operation she had seventy percent of the left side of her tongue removed. She is currently going to speech therapy and is learning to retrain and strengthen the muscles in the remaining part of her tongue, so vital to swallowing and speaking.

The bottom line is that one should be take note of any unusual symptoms or sore areas in the mouth that don't heal. Most sores heal within 14 days. More than two weeks, hightail it to your dentist to have it checked. Always ask your doctor, dentist or hygienist to do an oral cancer check as part of your routine exam. You are entitled to it! It should take just a few minutes and could save your life. Seventy-five percent of all head and neck cancers begin in the oral cavity.

To do a self-examination: remove any appliances you have in your mouth and use a washcloth or gauze to dry off your tissues. This will enable you to see lumps or bumps easier as well as any changes in the texture of your tissues.

Things to notice:

  • A sore or a spot on your lip or in your mouth that bleeds easily or does not heal for 2 weeks or longer.
  • A white or red patch on your gums, tongue, cheek, or lining of your mouth.
  • A lump, thickening, or crusty spot on your lip, your mouth or your throat.
  • A persistent sore throat.
  • A change in your voice.
  • A pain in your ear.
  • An unexplained swelling of your jaw with difficulty chewing, speaking or swallowing.
  • Any unusual bleeding, pain, or a numb feeling in your mouth area.
  • A change in the way your teeth come together.
  • Any asymmetry on your lips, mouth, face, or neck.

The National Cancer Institute encourages people to take an active role in the early detection of oral cancer.  Remember, frequent self-diagnosis in between dental visits is important.

Sheila Wolf, known affectionately as "Mama Gums," is a dental hygienist with over 40 years experience in non-surgical periodontal care. She is the author of two award-winning books, and writes articles about oral health for magazines and the Internet.

As an oral wellness coach, she teaches people how to keep their natural teeth, avoid expensive and painful gum surgery and even add years to their lives.  Her informative website, offers many tips on how to improve your whole body health through good oral hygiene. She is available for consultation either by phone or in person. 1-866 MAMA-GUMs.


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