A young woman at the Georgian Hotel felt a cold coming on, so she inspected her throat and discovered a dozen bumps on the far end of her tongue. I reassured her, but she wanted a doctor to see them.
I love housecalls where I know the diagnosis as soon as I hang up the phone. This qualified because the guest had discovered a normal part of her body. When you examine your tongue in the mirror, it seems smooth. People rarely stick it out far enough to reveal a clump of wart-like taste buds deep inside.
I also love telling a fearful patient that he or she has nothing to worry about, so this was a satisfying encounter for both of us.
It may save you some anxiety to memorize the following normal parts of your body.
- Put a finger inside your mouth and feel the gums behind your lower teeth. Moving just to the left and right reveals two hard lumps which may not be the same size. These are part of your mandible, the jawbone.
- With thumb and forefinger, pinch your neck just below the jaw to feel two lumps that mark either end of the hyoid bone that circles the front of your windpipe. You can wiggle them from side to side.
- Run your finger down the middle of your breastbone to an inch beyond the lower end, then push. You’ll feel a hard mass. That’s another bone, the xyphoid process. One guest was certain had a stomach tumor.
- Feel your major lymph node areas (neck, armpit, groin), and remember what you find. Part of the immune system, lymph nodes swell in response to an infection then shrink after it passes - except sometimes a node or two won’t shrink but remains forever as a pea-sized, moveable granule beneath the skin.