Oral Cancer (cont.)
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What are the symptoms of oral cancer?
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Your regular checkup is a good time for your dentist or doctor to check your entire mouth for signs of cancer. Regular checkups can detect the early stages of oral cancer or conditions that may lead to oral cancer. Ask your doctor or dentist about checking the tissues in your mouth as part of your routine exam.
Common symptoms of oral cancer include:
Anyone with these symptoms should see a doctor or dentist so that any problem can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible. Most often, these symptoms do not mean cancer. An infection or another problem can cause the same symptoms.
How is oral cancer diagnosed?
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If you have symptoms that suggest oral cancer, the doctor or dentist checks your mouth and throat for red or white patches, lumps, swelling, or other problems. This exam includes looking carefully at the roof of the mouth, back of the throat, and insides of the cheeks and lips. The doctor or dentist also gently pulls out your tongue so it can be checked on the sides and underneath. The floor of your mouth and lymph nodes in your neck also are checked.
If an exam shows an abnormal area, a small sample of tissue may be removed. Removing tissue to look for cancer cells is called a biopsy. Usually, a biopsy is done with local anesthesia. Sometimes, it is done under general anesthesia. A pathologist then looks at the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells. A biopsy is the only sure way to know if the abnormal area is cancerous.
If you need a biopsy, you may want to ask the doctor or dentist some of the following questions:
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/28/2014
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