Oral Cancer

Symptoms and Signs of Oral Cancer

Oropharynx is a part of pharynx (throat). It consists of mainly three sub-sites which are soft palate, base of tongue and tonsils. Cancers arising from these areas are categorised under oropharyngeal cancers. These cancers account for nearly 10% of all head and neck cancers. The incidence of oropharyngeal cancer is increasing in view of increased incidence of HPV infection. Males are more commonly affected compared to females. The median age of diagnosis is 60-70 years.

Cancer is defined as the uncontrollable growth of cells that invade and cause damage to surrounding tissue. Oral cancer can occur anywhere in the mouth, including the lips, tongue and throat, as well as the salivary glands, pharynx, larynx and sinuses. Early detection is crucial in overcoming this disease. If any of the following symptoms persist for more than two weeks, you have to go see your doctor:

  • Persistent mouth sore that does not heal
  • Jaw swelling that makes dentures hurt or fit poorly
  • A lump or thickening in the cheek
  • A lump in the neck
  • A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsils, or lining of the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Areas of red or white lesions in your mouth or lips
  • The feeling of a lump or object stuck in your throat
  • Swellings that make wearing dentures uncomfortable
  • Numbness
  • Persistent mouth pain
  • Loosening of the teeth
  • Weight loss
  • Voice changes
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Pain in the teeth or jaw
  • Tenderness
  • Pain in one of your ears but without any loss of hearing
  • Pain in the neck or ear that does not go away
  • Poorly fitting dentures
  • Trouble moving your jaw or tongue, or problems with chewing, swallowing or speaking
  • Loose teeth with no apparent dental cause
  • Lingering sore throat or hoarseness

Early signs of oral cancer may be mistaken for other problems, such as a toothache or cold. If symptoms persist for several weeks or months, it is important to see your doctor so that, if oral cancer is present, it may be diagnosed as soon as possible. Many symptoms caused by oral tumors may be due to other, less serious conditions or other cancers.

Make an appointment with your doctor or dentist if you have any persistent signs and symptoms that bother you and last more than two weeks. Your doctor will likely investigate other more common causes for your signs and symptoms first, such as an infection.