If you notice any of these, please visit your nearest dental clinic/hospital:
- A white or red patch or a mixture of red & white patch on the gum, tongue, cheek or palate or lining of the mouth
- An ulcer or sore in the mouth which do not heal after 3 weeks
- A lump in any part of the mouth
- Lumps in the neck of more than 3 weeks
- Difficulty in swallowing,speaking and chewing
- Difficulty in moving the jaw or tongue
- Numbness of the tongue or other areas of the mouth
- Chronic sore throat or hoarseness that persists more than six weeks
- Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable
- Unexplained bleeding, pain and weight loss
In order to diagnose oral cancer, a dental specialist will need to do a biopsy where a small piece is taken from the the patch/lump/ulcer and send to the diagnostic laboratory for examination under the microscope. This can confirm the suspicion of oral cancer most of the time. Biopsy is a short surgical procedure that is frequently done under local anaesthesia similar to that given prior to tooth extraction. It is often done on the dental chair and do not require you spending the night in the hospital.
When cancer is detected through the biopsy, the stage of the cancer is essential for treatment planning . The size of cancer, extent of the spread to the neck or other parts of the body must be determined in order to stage the disease. Stages I and II are considered early stage diseases while Stage II & IV are late stage diseases.
Radiographs (X-rays), CT scan and MRI are among the commonest investigations ordered to evaluate the size and extent of cancer for staging and pre-treatment asessment.