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Signs and Symptoms of Mouth Cancer

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 3/26/2011

What are the symptoms of mouth cancer? Here we will list and detail these for you.

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    Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer, is classified as a head and neck cancer. It may form in the gums, tongue, lining of the cheeks, lips or the roof of the mouth. The symptoms of mouth cancer may often be those of a far less serious illness so patients experiencing them must consult a physician right away to have their symptoms evaluated. While anyone can develop this cancer, it usually strikes those older than 45 years of age.

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    Patches

    Red and white patches on the lips or in the mouth may occur with this type of cancer. This is considered the most common oral cancer symptoms. They may be speckled red and white or velvety.

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    Blisters and Sores

    With this type of cancer, patients may develop a blister or sore on the lip or in the mouth that does not heal. If a patient has one for longer than two weeks, he or she should contact his or her physician. On the gums, lips or inside the mouth, a patient may experience bumps, lumps, eroded areas, thickenings, swellings or rough spots. Persistent sores that easily bleed on the neck, face or mouth are also possible.

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    Swallowing Issues

    Some of the symptoms of mouth cancer affect a person's ability to swallow. The patient may find chewing difficult, as well as speaking, moving the jaw and moving the tongue. The throat may be sore or feel like something is stuck in it. Any area of the mouth, face or neck may be numb or have lost feeling without explanation.

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    Pain and Discomfort

    Any area of the face, neck or mouth may be tender or painful. The patient may experience pain in the ears. The earaches tend to be persistent. Persistent oral pain can also be a symptom.

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    Teeth

    The teeth may change how they fit together. Some patients may notice that their teeth are becoming loose. Dentures may start to not fit correctly.

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    Bleeding

    Unexplained bleeding from the mouth can be caused by a variety of things and mouth cancer is one of them. This includes the tongue, gums or any other area of the mouth. This bleeding may just occur and/or may occur when eating, brushing teeth or other dental hygiene activities or when doing other things that involve the mouth.

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    Other Signs and Symptoms

    In addition to the above symptoms, there are other signs and symptoms that may indicate mouth cancer. Some patients report a sensory loss in their face. Bad breath may develop in some patients that is hard to control with regular dental products. Some patients will notice a lump in their neck. Some patients report experiencing a chronic sore throat, hoarseness or changes in their voice. Some patients will experience dramatic weight loss with this type of cancer.

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    Resources

    Cleveland Clinic. (2009). Oral Cancer. Retrieved on March 22, 2011 from the Cleveland Clinic: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/oral_cancer/hic_oral_cancer.aspx

    UCSF Medical Center. (2010). Oral Cancer. Retrieved on March 22, 2011 from UCSF Medical Center: http://www.ucsfhealth.org/conditions/oral_cancer/

    National Cancer Institute. (2011). What You Need to Know About Oral Cancer. Retrieved on March 22, 2011 from the National Cancer Institute: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/oral/page5