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  • Oral cancer is characterized by persistent growths or sores in the mouth.
  • Each year, around 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer, with men comprising 70% of these cases.
  • The disease encompasses cancers affecting various parts of the oral cavity, including lips, tongue, cheeks, mouth floor, both the hard and soft palate, sinuses, and the pharynx or throat.
  • Oral cancer can be fatal if not detected and addressed promptly.
  • Detecting oral cancer in its initial stages significantly simplifies treatment.
  • Regrettably, most patients receive their diagnosis when the cancer has already advanced, making treatment less effective.
  • Regular dental check-ups and learning to identify potential warning signs significantly increase the chances of early detection.

The symptoms of oral cancer can vary. The most common symptoms of oral cancer include:

Mouth Sores:

Persistent sores in the mouth that do not heal. If the condition is either aphthous stomatitis (also known as an aphthous ulcer) or a herpetic ulcer, it should disappear within 2-4 weeks.. You should seek medical attention if it takes longer time to heal.

White or Red Patches:

White or reddish patches on the inside of the mouth. Look for Velvety white and finger like projections of the white lesions. 

Lumps or Bumps:

Swellings, thickenings, or lumps on the lips, gums, cheeks, or other areas inside the mouth

Unexplained bleeding:

If you have unexplained bleeding in the mouth for long time then consult a dentist for further evaluation. It could be due to various reasons, and one of those reasons is oral cancer.

Unexplained numbness:

Unexplained numbness, loss of feeling, or pain/tenderness in any area of the face, mouth, or neck

Non-healing ulcer:

If you have a non-healing ulcer for a long time (more than 2 weeks) then look for the appearance of the lesion. Ulcer related to oral cancer has a central, depressed irregularly shaped rolled border.


A soreness or feeling that something is caught in the back of the throat

Pain or Discomfort:

Mouth pain, ear pain, or difficulty and pain while swallowing, opening the mouth, or chewing

Changes in Dentures:

Dentures that no longer fit properly. Ill-fitting dentures can cause chronic irritation to the lining of the mouth, which may increase a person’s risk for oral cancer. However, it’s important to note that dentures themselves do not cause oral cancer. (Ref)

Ear pain:

The pain may radiate to the jaw and cheeks, and it may be accompanied by a feeling of fullness in the ear and tinnitus (ringing in the ear). Ear pain is not a common symptom of oral or throat cancer, but it’s still important to pay attention to any other changes in your health

Unintentional Weight Loss:

Sudden and unintentional weight loss. It is defined as a significant weight loss of more than 5% of body weight over the past few months, which is continuous and unintentional. Between 31% and 87% of cancer patients report experiencing unexplained, unintentional weight loss. (ref)

Chronic Bad Breath:

Persistent bad breath that doesn’t improve with oral hygiene. Persistent bad breath is usually caused by the smelly gases released by the bacteria that coat your teeth, gums, and tongue.

There are several reasons for bad breath. If you experience chronic bad breath that doesn’t improve with oral hygiene, it is recommended to see a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis


In conclusion, it’s crucial to be well-informed and vigilant about oral cancer symptoms. Persistent sores, growths, or changes in the mouth can be potential indicators of this disease. Early detection, primarily through regular dental check-ups and self-examination, is key to improving treatment outcomes and survival rates.

With around 50,000 Americans diagnosed each year, awareness of oral cancer and its signs must be a priority for everyone. Always consult a healthcare professional if you notice any suspicious changes, as timely diagnosis can significantly increase the effectiveness of treatment strategies.

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