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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Oral cancer symptoms

The earliest signs of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer may be mistaken for other problems, such as a toothache or cold. If symptoms persist for several days or weeks, it is important to see your doctor so that, if oral cancer is present, it can be diagnosed as soon as possible. Many of these symptoms can be due to other, less serious problems or other cancers.

cancer symptoms

Oral cancer symptoms

Some of the most common oral cancer symptoms and signs include:

  • Persistent mouth sore: A sore in the mouth that does not heal is the most common symptom of oral cancer
  • Pain: Persistent mouth pain is another common oral cancer sign
  • A lump or thickening in the cheek
  • A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth
  • A sore throat or feeling that something is caught in the throat that does not go away
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue
  • Numbness of the tongue or elsewhere in the mouth
  • Jaw swelling that makes dentures hurt or fit poorly
  • Loosening of the teeth
  • Pain in the teeth or jaw
  • Voice changes
  • A lump in the neck
  • Weight loss
  • Persistent bad breath

If any of these oral cancer symptoms or signs are present for days or weeks, your doctor may recommend tests to check for oral cancer. As with any cancer, having your cancer diagnosed as soon as possible will help ensure that any treatment is as effective as possible.

Screening for oral cancer

Although there are no current guidelines for screening for oral cancer, your dentist or primary care physician typically look for abnormalities during routine exams. 

Last Revised: 10/12/2015

Understanding cancer symptoms

These symptoms may be attributed to a number of conditions other than cancer. If you notice any cancer signs or symptoms, it's important to visit your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

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