July 25, 2023

Facts About Oral Cancer Including 12 Symptoms You Might Not Know About

Facts About Oral Cancer Including 12 Symptoms You Might Not Know About

It’s hard to see inside your mouth! That’s why it can be hard to tell if something unusual is developing until it’s been there for a while! While some issues, like canker sores, are fairly minor, other less obvious problems could be related to something much more serious, such as oral cancer. Because of this, it’s important to know what to look for so you can talk to your dentist sooner rather than later.

If you notice anything abnormal in your mouth or throat area that lasts more than a couple of weeks without improving, you should schedule a special appointment with your dentist. The longer you wait to get your symptoms checked out, the longer it will take to receive a diagnosis. In many cases, it’s not cancer! But it’s best to be sure so that treatment can begin as soon as possible for whatever the condition may be.

Which Types of Cancer Are Considered Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer is a term that encompasses cancers that start in the mouth area. This includes the tongue, the tissue lining the mouth and gums, salivary glands, under the tongue, at the base of the tongue, and the throat area at the back of the mouth. Oral cancer is one of a few types of “head and neck cancer.” Some nearby areas that are not considered oral cancer include esophagus cancer, pharyngeal cancer, laryngeal (voicebox) cancer, and sinus cavity cancer.



What You Should Know About Head and Neck Cancers

patient with oncologist discussing a head and neck cancer diagnosis, cccb

About 95% of oral cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, which develop in the cells that line the mouth and throat. As the cancer cells grow, they can spread deeper into the tissue. The most common locations for oral cancer are the tongue, tonsils, gums, and soft palate (the back of the top part of your mouth).

A number of symptoms can be associated with oral cancer, which will depend on the tumor's location and how far the cancer has spread. Unfortunately, many of these symptoms can be mistaken for common problems or changes in the mouth, but they could be related to cancer. Below is a list of oral cancer symptoms that can help you better identify issues that could be cancer.

12 Surprising Oral Cancer Symptoms

A common sign of oral cancer is a sore inside the mouth or a sore that doesn’t heal. But there are many more symptoms worth knowing about. Some of them may even surprise you. Symptoms can include:

  1. Persistent mouth pain. This includes general mouth discomfort that won’t go away, as well as pain or difficulty when speaking, pain in the teeth or jaw, and pain in the facial muscles when chewing.

  2. Bleeding or pain on the lip or in the mouth.

  3. Any swelling, thickening, or rough, crusty, or eroded spots on the lips, gums, cheek, or inside the mouth.

  4. A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth (leukoplakia) that may or may not bleed when touched. These painless, precancerous lesions or sores are common symptoms that increase your risk of developing oral cancer in the future. Therefore, lesions or sores should be evaluated for cancer, especially if they do not heal.

  5. A painless lump or mass can be felt inside the mouth, lips, or gums, especially if it grows larger.

  6. Numbness in the oral/facial area.

  7. A stiff or swollen jaw or a jaw that’s hard to open.

  8. Ear issues, including ringing in the ear (tinnitus), earache that extends to the jaws or cheeks, and the feeling of fullness in the ear, especially if you’ve confirmed that no ear infection or cold is present to cause the feeling.

  9. Loose teeth, which can be a sign of gum cancer.

  10. A change in your bite, as in your teeth now feel misaligned.

  11. Dentures that start to fit poorly or become uncomfortable.

  12. Weight loss that seems to result from having problems chewing and swallowing.

Who Is At Risk for Oral Cancer?

There are various reasons you could develop oral cancer. But, if you use tobacco or over consume alcohol, you are putting yourself at an even greater risk. Current estimates suggest that 80% of individuals who become oral cancer patients smoke, and 70% are considered heavy drinkers.

To reduce your risk, consider cutting back on your tobacco use. Or better yet, try quitting smoking altogether. Tobacco use is considered smoking cigarettes, pipes, or cigars, although chewing tobacco is also associated with increased oral cancer risk.

When it comes to drinking, consuming any amount of alcohol, including beer, wine, or liquor, is associated with an increased risk of developing oral cancer. That risk rises two to three times more in people who drink 3.5 drinks or more per day.

A third leading factor associated with developing oral cancer (and other cancers) is the presence of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). To reduce the likelihood of developing oral cancer from HPV, you may want to consider getting the HPV vaccine.

Regular Screening for Oral Cancer is Important

Ensuring that you keep your regular dentist appointments is a good way to stay on top of potential problems that could be related to cancer. Your dentist can check for signs of oral cancer in your mouth, on your tongue, and in your throat. Additional examination may be recommended if any abnormalities are found. This is also a good time to bring up any concerns you have regarding your oral health, especially if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above.

The earlier oral cancer is detected and diagnosed; the easier it is to treat, so don’t hesitate to speak up. If cancer is found, it may be treated with one or a combination of therapies, including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy.

Oral Cancer Doctors in Brevard County

If you have been recently diagnosed with oral cancer, Cancer Care Centers of Brevard is here to help create the best oral cancer treatment plan for your specific needs. We offer the latest state-of-the-art treatments, including access to clinical trials. Our cancer centers are located throughout Melbourne, Merritt Island, Palm Bay, and Rockledge, Florida. Find a location nearest you to request an appointment with our head and neck cancer specialists.

Categories: Head and Neck Cancers