Know the Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Many people are unaware of the severity of oral cancer. And, they certainly don’t realize that as many as eighteen people are diagnosed a day. Because there is not much awareness on the topic, it is not uncommon for dental patients to ignore the signs and symptoms of oral cancer for months. Because of the lack of awareness around the topic, organizations such as the Oral Cancer Foundation are looking for ways to educate more people about the disease.

What is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer beings in the mouth of the oropharynx, which is the point where your throat meets the back of the mouth. Oral cancer can appear anywhere inside the mouth, but is usually seen in one of these places:

  • The lip
  • The mouth lining
  • Under the tongue
  • The tongue
  • The gums
  • The area behind the wisdom teeth
  • The back of the throat
  • The tonsils
  • The roof of the mouth

Patients who use tobacco products and/or consume alcohol are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer, especially those who use chewing tobacco products. Additionally, prolonged sun exposure and presence of the Human Papillomavirus also leave a patient at risk of developing the disease.

What Are the Symptoms?

Understanding the common symptoms of oral cancer is the best way to ensure early detection and treatment of the disease. The following are the most common symptoms:

  • A lump in the mouth, throat, or on the lip
  • White or red patches on the gums, tongue, or lining of the mouth
  • Bleeding, pain, or numbness in the mouth
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Difficulty or pain chewing or swallowing
  • Swelling of the jaw
  • Change in voice, increase hoarseness in the voice
  • Pain in the ear


Early diagnosis and treatment are particularly important when it comes to oral cancer. If you are having symptoms of oral cancer, be sure to contact your dentist immediately. Take note of any unexplained or persistent symptoms you may have experienced. Oral cancer use the TNM staging system to determine severity. With this system, the stage of cancer is determined by:

  • T= the size of the tumor
  • N= whether it has spread to the lymph nodes
  • M= whether it has spread to other parts of the body

To determine this, one of the following tests are administered: CT Scan, MRI, X-Ray, Endoscopy, Pet Scan

Taking the signs and symptoms of oral cancer seriously is important to your overall health. Delaying treatment can lead to as low as a 50% survival rate in some patients. Since early detection is linked to a 90% survival rate, talk to your doctor about any concerns you have.