Open Wide: A Simple Exam Could Save Your Life

Oral cancers are on the rise in the U.S., and most Americans are largely unaware of major risk factors and symptoms. The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine (TTUHSC) Otolaryngology Club will offer a free oral cancer screening from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 10 at the South Plains Mall Grand Court area outside of the men’s Dillard’s, 6002 Slide Rd.

Close to 40,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. According to Debdeep Banerjee, president of the TTUHSC Otolaryngology Club and first-year medical student, oral cancer affects a new person every hour and is highly debilitating if gone undetected.

“Some individuals may see a doctor who will do an oral exam to look for the disease,” Banerjee said. “Yet there are many more that do not have access to a dentist or physician who can screen for the disease. This is an opportunity to get checked.”

Joehassin Cordero, M.D., Texas Tech Physicians – Surgery, said because people are not aware of the risk factors, they are not taking a proactive approach to screening and early detection of oral cancer.

“If caught early, oral cancer is highly survivable,” Cordero said. “It’s as simple as getting an oral exam from a dentist or your doctor. Exams are quick and painless and when we catch it in the early stages, patients have an 80 to 90 percent survival rate.”

The signs and symptoms of oral cancer often go unnoticed. However, there are a few visible signs associated with these cancers that require immediate attention:


  • A sore in your mouth that doesn’t heal or increases in size

  • Persistent pain in your mouth

  • Lumps or white or red patches inside your mouth

  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing or moving your tongue

  • Soreness in your throat or feeling that something is caught in your throat

  • Changes in your voice

  • A lump in your neck


If a person has these warning signs, they should seek medical attention immediately.

Cordero said every adult should get tested for oral cancer.

“Tobacco and alcohol users traditionally have been considered the populations at greatest risk for these cancers,” Cordero said. “However, oral cancer cases are on the rise in younger adults who do not smoke and recent research indicates this development is due partly to the increase of the human papilloma virus (HPV) which can be transmitted through oral sex. HPV-related oral cancers are more difficult to detect because these cancers usually occur on the back of the tongue or on the tonsils, providing even more reason to get screened regularly.”

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