Oral cancer is a major Pubic health problem of the world. Globally, there are around 2,70,000 new cases annually and 1,45,000 deaths, of which two-thirds occur in developing countries. India accounts for one-third of the world cancer burden. Oral cancer is the most common form of cancer and accounts for much cancer-related death among men than females in India. The main risk factors for developing oral cancer are any form of tobacco and alcohol consumption. The detection of small, early-stage oral cancer has been shown to lead to significantly reduced deaths and sufferings.

There are particularly eight steps for self evaluation for oral cancer.

The examination procedure is simple and easy to carry out. Just stand in front of a mirror every day and carry out the examination of below mentioned parts of face and mouth. If you require additional assistance you can take help for demonstration from your family physician or dentist for the first time to ensure you are doing it properly. 

  • Face - Examine the symmetry of the face in a mirror, and check for irregularities and new imbalance between the two sides.

  • Lips - Pull up upper and lower lips to check the texture and color. 

  • Gums - Raise upper and lower lips to check color and conditions of the gums. 

  • Cheeks - Draw back the side of the mouth to check inside the cheeks. 

  • Tongue and floor of mouth - Move the tongue, check as far back as can be seen in the mirror, and feel the area. 

  • Palate - Examine the upper palate as far back as you can see. 

  • Neck - Feel for anything unusual on the sides of the neck. 

  • Trachea - Hold the thyroid cartilage (the Adam's apple). It should go up and down when you swallow. 

If you should discover any unusual lumps, bumps, spots or color changes, unhealing sore throat  and so on and not disappearing for more than two weeks, bring them to your dentist's attention as soon as possible to get it examined and investigated at once.

Oral Cancer prevention

  • Quit smoking or the consumption of any form of tobacco

  • Quit betel quid/areca/gutkha/chewing tobacco consumption

  • Discourage children and young adults from experimenting with harmful lifestyle habits 

  • Moderate alcohol consumption

  • Eat plenty of fresh fruits and green-yellow vegetables (five to six portions per day)

Tobacco in any form should be avoided and if necessary, tobacco cessation and counselling be taken, practice of moderate alcohol consumption, nutritional guidance (consuming five to six portions of fresh fruits or vegetables per day) and other general healthy lifestyle habits be practiced and supplementing the above with a careful self examination of the face/mouth/oral mucosa can detect the early signs of cancer or precancer.

Generally speaking, this is easy.  Just look for lumps and bumps, and carefully observe any color changes on the mouth tissues, particularly if they are red, white, or blue. Also check color changes in skin (head and neck.)

The high-risk areas for oral cancer are: the lateral border (sides) of the tongue; the floor of the mouth; the soft palate (back of the rook of the mouth); the ventral border (under surface) of the tongue, and the tonsils.

Just remember oral cancer is preventable and easy, but cure isn't. Improving awareness among the general public, including primary care practitioners, dispensing screening / early diagnostic facilities for people, especially for tobacco and alcohol users, and providing adequate treatment for those diagnosed with Cancers are critical in controlling Oral Cancers, a preventable disease.