Oral cancer often appears in the mouth as a white, or red, spot or sore that is so small it goes unnoticed. Because many people do not realize they have oral cancer, a diagnosis may not be made until the cancer has become more advanced, making treatment more difficult. Early detection of cancer and precancerous conditions increases the likelihood of a cure. Regular dental examinations are an invaluable part of early cancer detection and treatment.
Oral cancer can be caused or exacerbated by heavy alcohol and tobacco use, and sun exposure. It may appear on the lips, gums, inner cheeks or tongue, or on the hard or soft palate.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Symptoms of oral cancer may include:
- A sore that bleeds easily or does not heal
- Red or white patches in the mouth
- A change in color of any parts of the mouth
- A lump, thickened tissue, rough spot, or crusted or eroded area
- Pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere in the mouth or on the lips
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue
- Sore throat or hoarseness
- A change in the way the teeth fit together