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6 Common Oral Cancer Symptoms


Updated May 30, 2014

About Oral Cancer Symptoms:

Oral cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that affects the mouth. It can form in the lining of the cheeks, gums, roof of the mouth, tongue, and lips. Oral cancer symptoms can often be the signs of other less serious illnesses, so it is important to consult your doctor or dentist if you are experiencing any of these changes in your oral health.

During your annual dental check-up, your dentist will also screen for oral cancer. Those who use tobacco products may receive a more in-depth screening based on their risk.

1. White and Red Patches in the Mouth or Lips:

A white or red patch (or combination of the two) inside the mouth or the lips are the most commonly experienced symptom of oral cancer. In the early stages, these white and red patches are warnings of abnormal cells, a pre-malignant condition. If left untreated, they can become cancerous.

2. A Sore or Blister in Your Mouth:

A sore or blister in the mouth or on the lip that won't heal is a symptom of oral cancer. Sores that last longer than 2 weeks warrant a trip to the doctor.

3. Difficulty Swallowing:

This symptom can include difficulty chewing, moving the jaw, speaking, or moving the tongue. This is a non-specific symptom of oral cancer and can be caused by many other conditions.

4. Earaches:

Frequent or persistent earaches need to be evaluated by a physician. An earache is usually indicative of an infection. However, in some cases, it can be related to oral cancer.

5. Change in the Way Teeth Fit Together:

This can include dentures not fitting correctly. Oral cancer can also cause loose teeth.

6. Bleeding from the Mouth:

Report any oral bleeding to your dentist and doctor. Bleeding from the mouth can be caused by many things, but it is still a symptom of oral cancer and needs to be checked out.


"What You Need to Know About Oral Cancer". Cancer Topics. National Cancer Society: What You Need to Know About Oral Cancer. 09 Sptember 2004. Accessed 14 July 2008.

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