8 Oral Cancer Symptoms You Should Never Ignore

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8 Oral Cancer Symptoms You Should Never Ignore

Oral cancer is a serious condition that requires immediate care. The sooner that oral cancer is detected, the better the chances of a successful recovery will be. One of the keys to early diagnosis is to know the symptoms to watch for. Keep an eye on your gums, lips, tongue, inner cheeks, neck, and jaw for the following warning signs of oral cancer. 

What Does Oral Cancer Look Like? Eight Signs to Watch For

1: Mouth Sores That Don’t Go Away

One of the most common symptoms of oral cancer is persistent mouth sores. Some sores can be harmless, such as canker sores that typically heal in ten days. But any type of ulcer, lesion, or sore that doesn’t heal within two weeks is a cause for concern. Other signs that a mouth sore could be cancerous are that it is thick and hard, and bleeds frequently.  

2: Red or White Patches

Red patches (erythroplakia) can develop in the mouth because of an injury, an infection, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy. White patches (leukoplakia) can be caused by constant irritation, such as if you wear ill-fitting dentures. However, unexplained red or white patches can also be an early warning sign of cancer, so it’s important to have them checked out. 

3: Speech Changes

If oral cancer affects the tongue, you might start to have difficulty saying words that never gave you trouble in the past. Sudden changes in speech can also be signs of a minor stroke or neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, so it’s crucial to see a doctor if your speech changes. 

4: Hoarseness

If your voice is suddenly hoarse, but you didn’t go to a concert or sports event, it could be due to a tumor in the throat. Hoarseness that lasts two weeks or more is particularly concerning, and should not be ignored. 

5: Loose Teeth

Large oral tumors can affect the roots of your teeth, causing them to shift. However, loose teeth can also be the result of advanced gum disease. Loose teeth should always be immediately evaluated by your dentist. The sooner you seek treatment, the lower the chances of tooth loss. 

6: Pain or Numbness

Mouth pain combined with or followed by numbness is a major cause for concern. Large tumors can injure the nerves in your mouth, causing numbness in select areas. Oral cancer can cause pain in the teeth, gums, tongue, and jaw—it can even lead to earaches. Mouth and ear pain can also be caused by cavities, gum disease, and TMJ disorders, which need prompt intervention from a dentist as well. 

7: Lumps or Thickening of Tissue

Unexplained lumps are one of the most common signs of oral cancer. If you feel any lumps, bumps, or thickening of tissues in your lips, cheeks, tongue, jaw, or neck, contact your doctor right away. 

8: Sudden Weight Loss

Losing a lot of weight without changing your diet or exercise routine can be a warning sign for many serious health conditions, including oral cancer. Losing at least 5% of your body weight without trying in under 6-12 months should be investigated by your doctor. 

Dental Exams in Sun Lakes, Arizona

Routine dental exams include checking for signs of oral cancer and dental diseases, so keeping up with your twice-a-year appointments is crucial. At Dr. Saba and Associates, we provide thorough preventative dental care to adults in Sun Lakes. If you’re due for a teeth cleaning and checkup, give our office a call at 480-895-2111 today to make an appointment.


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