Identifying Common Oral Cancer Symptoms
There are many different oral cancer symptoms depending on the stage of the disease and where it is located in the mouth. Even early oral cancer warning signs can often be found in a dental exam. Or, you may notice them yourself. If you know what to look for, you can have any suspicious symptoms checked out by your dentist or your doctor before the cancer spreads.
Abnormal Tissue Changes
One of the common oral cancer symptoms is a lesion in the mouth. This could appear on your gums, your tongue, your lip, the inside of your cheek or even on your tonsils. It may look like a canker sore or a crevice in the oral tissue with hard or crusty edges. Or, it may look like a white patch or a red blotch. White patches may have a velvety appearance while red patches may be smooth. There may also be mixed red and white patches. If this type of symptom goes away within two weeks, it is not likely to be dangerous. However, if it doesn’t heal, you should have it looked at by a medical professional. It can still be something other than oral cancer, but any persistent sores in your mouth need to be evaluated and treated anyway since they can be signs of other chronic medical conditions.
Additional Oral Cancer Symptoms
Bumps and Lumps – You may find a wart-like bump anywhere in your mouth or a lump in your cheek. The lump may also be found in your neck (in the lymph nodes) if the cancer has spread.
Loss of Mobility – If an oral tumor is large enough, it may interfere with chewing, swallowing, tongue movement and jaw movement.
Changes in Sensation – It’s possible for a cancerous mass to affect the nerves in your mouth. You may feel numbness in your mouth, tongue, lip or chin as a result. Mouth cancer can also cause pain, although it is often painless in its early stages.
Persistent Sore Throat – A lump further down in your throat may make you feel like you have a sore throat. Swallowing may be painful or difficult. Your voice may also be hoarse.
Denture Problems – Dentures that previously fit well may become difficult or uncomfortable to wear if cancer is causing your jaw to swell.
Oral Bleeding or Loose Teeth – The most common cause of bleeding and loose teeth in the mouth is gum inflammation and infection (periodontal disease). However, it can also be an oral cancer symptom. Periodontitis is a risk factor for mouth cancer, so it should be treated anyway.
Ear Pain – An earache that affects just one ear and that does not go away with traditional treatment could be an oral cancer warning sign.
Sudden Weight Loss – Unexplained loss of a large amount of weight is a sign of many serious medical conditions, including oral cancer.
What If You Notice an Oral Cancer Symptom?
Don’t be too alarmed if you have a symptom that might be oral cancer. This disease shares many symptoms with other, less harmful conditions such as infections. Set up an appointment with your doctor or dentist to find out what’s going on. An evaluation and a biopsy (the removal of a very small piece of tissue from the suspected area) can reveal whether there are actually cancerous cells present. The recovery rate for oral cancer is very high with early diagnosis and treatment. As long as you pay attention and catch it before it spreads, your chances of pulling through are good. If you have a friend or loved one who has any of the symptoms on the list above, encourage them to see their dentist right away too. You might help save their life!