Oral, Head and Neck Cancer

50,000 will be diagnosed this year. Here’s what you need to know.

Your oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS) is the expert for diagnosing and surgically treating cancer of the head, neck and mouth.

The Oral Cancer Foundation estimates that close to 49,750 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. The mortality rate for oral cancer is particularly high – not because it is hard to detect or diagnose – but because the cancer is often discovered late in its development. Your family dentist or OMS is in the best position to detect oral cancer during your routine dental examinations.

Risk Factors

A number of primary factors may contribute to the development of oral cancer. These include:

  • Tobacco, including snuff, chew or smokeless tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Weakened immune system

Perform a Self-Exam Monthly

Everyone should perform an oral cancer self-exam each month. Follow these steps using a bright light and a mirror to perform an oral examination:

  1. Remove any dentures.
  2. Look and feel inside the lips and the front of gums.
  3. Tilt head back to inspect and feel the roof of your mouth.
  4. Pull the cheek out to see its inside surface as well as the back of the gums.
  5. Pull out your tongue and look at all of its surfaces.
  6. Feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes (glands) in both sides of the neck including under the lower jaw.
oral cancer

Your mouth is one of your body's most important early warning systems. Don't ignore any suspicious lumps or sores. Should you discover something, make an appointment for a prompt examination. Early treatment may well be the key to complete recovery.

warning signs of oral cancer

To learn more and find an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in your area, visit MyOMS.org.

The information provided here is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is provided to help you communicate effectively when you seek the advice of your oral and maxillofacial surgeon.