In 2015 we launched a simple head and neck cancer check which can be carried out by anyone at home, at any time, but ideally once per month.
There are easy to do self-check tests for a variety of other cancers and illnesses but there is nothing similar for mouth, head or neck cancer. Carrying out a thorough head and neck cancer examination at home can save lives. Be familiar with the signs and symptoms to look out for and learn to act sooner. Early detection is key in the fight against mouth cancers.
The Self Examination shows members of the public what to look for and how to seek help if they find something out of the ordinary. This will allow head and neck cancers to be caught earlier. Head and neck cancers are particularly vicious and debilitating when detected late. With earlier detection, lives are saved and costs on the NHS will reduce dramatically.
It is recommended that a self check is done once a month after teeth have been cleaned and by everyone over the age of 16 years. The self-examination takes less than two minutes and might just save your life.
Look at the whole face. Are there any swellings you haven’t noticed before? Inspect your skin. Has anything changed recently? Have moles become larger or started to itch or bleed? Turn your head from side to side. This stretches the skin over the muscles making lumps easier to see.
Run the fingers under your jaw and feel along the large muscle either side of neck using the balls of your fingers. Are there any swellings? Does everything feel the same on both sides?
Using your index, middle fingers and thumb to feel the inside of your mouth. Pull your upper lip upwards and bottom lip downwards to look inside for any sores or changes in colour. Use your thumb and forefinger to feel around and inside your lips checking for any lumps, bumps or changes in texture.
Use your thumb and forefinger on the inside and outside of the gum working your way around the gum to feel for anything unusual.
Open your mouth and pull your cheeks away, one side at a time, with your finger to look inside. Look for any red or white patches. Use your finger in the cheek to check for ulcers, lumps or tenderness. Repeat on the other side. Your tongue can be helpful to locate sore areas, ulcers or rough patches.
Gently pull out your tongue and look at one side first and then the other. Look for any swelling, ulcer or change in colour. Examine the underside of your tongue by lifting the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
Lift your tongue up and look underneath then look at the floor of your mouth for any colour changes that are unusual. Gently press your finger along the floor of your mouth and underside your tongue to feel for any lumps, swellings or ulcers.
Tilt back your head and open your mouth wide to check the roof of your mouth. Look to see if there are changes in colour or ulcers. Check for changes in texture with your finger.
Make a note of anything unusual. If you have recently had a cold, sore throat, ulcer or swollen glands, bitten or scolded yourself for example, these should heal within 3 weeks. If you have any concerns visit your dentist or doctor to see if you need specialist advice.
The Mouth Cancer Foundation recommends that everyone over the age of 16 has a professional examination for early signs of mouth cancer, once a year, at their dentist.
Download a variety of free leaflets, posters and educational resources.