What Are the First Signs of Oral Cancer?

The early signs of oral cancer can be difficult to spot and therefore are sometimes easily overlooked. This type of cancer can develop in a number of places, including the lips, inner lining of the cheeks, salivary glands, gums, tongue, hard palate and soft palate. Depending on where in the mouth the cancer first develops, it can cause a variety of warning signs.

Due to of their ongoing involvement in their patients’ oral health, many dentists perform a brief oral cancer screening as part of a routine dental check-up. This typically includes an examination of the entire mouth and lips, as well as the face and neck, for possible signs of cancer. In addition to keeping your teeth and gums healthy, this is one more reason why it is important to see a dentist regularly. To further protect yourself, you should also become familiar with the first signs of oral cancer so that you can promptly bring them to the attention of a physician should they occur.

Common symptoms of oral cancer

In general, you should seek medical attention for any oral cancer symptoms that last for more than two weeks. These include:

  • A sore, irritation or thickness in your mouth or throat
  • A white or red patch on the inside of your mouth
  • A feeling that something is caught in your throat
  • Hoarseness or other vocal changes
  • Persistent coughing
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking
  • Difficulty moving your jaw or tongue
  • Numbness in your mouth
  • Swelling in your jaw or neck
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Ear pain that does not affect your hearing
  • Unexplained weight loss

If you’d like to have your oral cancer symptoms evaluated by an experienced oncologist, turn to Moffitt Cancer Center. The multispecialty team in our Head and Neck Cancer Program can utilize a variety of diagnostic tests, such as an oral cavity examination using fiber-optic technologies, to get to the bottom of troublesome symptoms. Based on a thorough evaluation, we can provide an accurate diagnosis and, if necessary, recommend an individualized treatment plan to help you achieve the best possible outcome and quality of life.

You can see an oncologist at Moffitt with or without a referral. To request an appointment, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online.