What are the First Signs of Oral Cancer?


A cancer diagnosis can be scary, regardless of where the cancer is located. As with any type of cancer, early detection is best. The same is true with oral cancer. What are the signs of oral cancer, who is at risk, are there treatment options, and what is the survival rate are all questions many people wonder about. We will look at these questions, and more, in this article.

Signs of Oral Cancer

Many signs of oral cancer can first appear as symptoms of other illnesses or diseases. However, if you experience any of these signs for several weeks or they keep reappearing, it is imperative that you contact your dentist for an appointment right away.

If you have:

·         Persistent mouth sores that do not heal or mouth pain

·         Lumps in the cheek or thickening of the cheek

·         Lumps in the neck

·         White or red patches on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth

·         Sore throat

·         Difficulty swallowing or chewing or moving of the jaw or tongue

·         Numbness in the mouth area

·         Weight loss

·         Persistent halitosis, or bad breath

·         Voice changes

Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list of signs or symptoms and if you have any concerns, you need to call your dentist for a consultation. This will give him or her the opportunity to do a physical exam and, if necessary, a biopsy, which requires the removal of tissue for testing.

Who is at Risk?

People who use tobacco, such as smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or use chewing tobacco, or consume large amounts of alcohol are at the greatest risk of developing oral cancer. Studies have also shown that men are more likely to contract this type of cancer than women. Other factors might include:

·         Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection

·         Chronic sun exposure

·         Family history or genetic syndromes

·         Poor nutrition

·   Weakened immune system

If you are a tobacco user and would like assistance quitting, contact a medical professional or smokefree.gov for options and treatments.

Treatment Options

The treatment of oral cancer will depend on your cancer’s location and stage, as well as your overall health and personal preferences. Options might include surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. You may have one type of treatment or undergo a combination of treatments. Your doctor can discuss these options with you.

Surgery options could be used to remove the tumor, remove cancer that has spread to the neck, or to reconstruct the mouth.

Radiation therapy is used to kill cancerous cells by the means of high-energy beams, such as X-rays and protons.

Chemotherapy might be necessary to kill the cancer cells using chemicals. This is often combined with radiation therapy.

Survival Rate

Oral cancer is highly treatable if found early but can turn deadly if not diagnosed and treated promptly. Tongue cancer is the most serious and life-threatening form of oral cancer. The American Cancer Society has reported about 7,000 deaths as a result from oral cancer out of 30,000 cases diagnosed annually.