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Oral Care

>> Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Oral hygiene is one area that is often neglected until a problem arises.

A monthly self-examination of your mouth may go a long way in detecting any suspicious lumps. Asst Prof Fan shows you how.

- Lift up the upper lip and pull down the lower lip to look right inside the fold.
- Stretch open right and left cheek to look at the furthest corner inside.
- Stick out tongue to check its left and right side, and under the surface.
- Lift tongue up to check floor of mouth.
- Tilt head back to check palate and say "arrh" to check the soft palate. The soft palate is the soft tissue at the back of the roof of the mouth.

Head and neck cancer afflicts about 500 Singaporeans each year, and is the sixth most common cancer to afflict men in Singapore. But the symptoms are hard to detect because they seem to be trivial ailments.

"Some of the early symptoms of head and neck cancer are similar to those of common ailments like upper respiratory tract infection and may be ignored," said medical oncologist Dr Leong Swan Swan, who is based at Gleneagles Medical Centre's Oncocare Cancer Centre. "This may cause delays in seeking medical attention and hence more advanced cancers at diagnosis," added the doctor.

"A sign to look out for is a non-healing mouth ulcer," said Asst Prof Fan. "The ulcers that most people get typically heal within 10 to 14 days. Any ulcer that doesn't heal in two weeks is suspicious," he added.

Other warning signs include a persistent sore throat or congested nose, as well as unusual lumps, and red or white patches in the mouth. In more advanced cases, the patient may have difficulty swallowing or slurred speech, especially those who have tongue cancer. Others may have abnormal lumps in the neck.

With early diagnosis, head and neck cancers are curable, both doctors stressed.

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