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Symptoms of Oral Cancer

The following are the most common symptoms of oral cancer. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • a lip or mouth sore that does not heal
  • a white or red patch on the gums, tongue, or lining of mouth
  • a lump on the lip or in the mouth or throat
  • unusual bleeding, pain, or numbness in the mouth area
  • swelling of the jaw
  • pain in the ear
  • change in voice
  • a chronic sore throat
  • feeling as if something is caught in the throat
  • pain or difficulty in swallowing or chewing

The symptoms of oral cancer may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

What oral conditions may be precancerous?

Two conditions in the mouth - leukoplakia and erythroplakia - actually can be precursors to cancer. Often caused by smoking or chewing tobacco, these (initially) benign conditions can occur anywhere in the mouth. Only a biopsy can determine whether precancerous cells (dysplasia) or cancer cells are present in a leukoplakia or erythroplakia.

  • leukoplakia - a condition characterized by a whitish patch that develops inside the mouth or throat.
  • erythroplakia - a condition characterized by a red, raised patch that develops inside the mouth.

Treatment for leukoplakias or erythroplakias may include use of retinoids - medications which are related to vitamin A - to eliminate, reduce, and/or prevent dysplasia from forming.