Oral Cancer Symptoms

Cancer is a disease that happens due to uncontrolled division of abnormal cells. This can occur in any part of the body. Certain parts of the body are more prone to cancer due to constant exposure to irritants and risk factors.

These abnormal cells that grow at an unusual pace are referred to as malignant cells. Oral cancer mostly occurs on the following sites:

  • Lips: the lower lip being more commonly affected
  • Tongue
  • Soft tissues of the mouth like: buccal mucosa, palate etc.

The earliest signs of the cancer of the oral cavity might mimic many other common oral problems. Therefore, it is very important to pay attention to them, especially in susceptible individuals. The symptoms might mimic that of toothache, cold etc. If these symptoms last for a duration longer than two weeks, it is important to get these screening by a physician or your dentist to rule out any serious issue.

The most common irritants that could lead to development of Oral cancer are: chewing Tobacco, eating Paan masala, Gutkha, Khaini, smoking or Supari. A sharp tooth that keeps on irritating the mucosa or any prosthodontic appliance that rubs against the mucosa or is ill-fitting could lead to abnormal changes in the cells of the oral mucosa.

Let us read out below in more details about the most common oral cancer symptoms and presentations.


If oral cancers are diagnosed early, the survival rate of most of the types of Oral cancer is good and the chances of successful treatment are quite high. Your dentist can check for abnormal changes in your oral cavity during regular checkups. This is important because often early however, having some knowledge about the early changes associated with development of Oral cancer can help you to recognize these warning signals well in time so that you can bring these to your dentist’s attention at once.

The most common Oral cancer symptoms are the following:

  • A persistent mouth ulcer that is not healing: A sore in the oral cavity that does not heal is the most common yet most ignored symptom of oral cancer
  • Pain: Persistent pain at a certain site in the mouth that can often be confused with toothache is another common oral cancer symptom.
  • Presence of a lump or nodular mass in cheek or floor of the mouth.
  • Patches on any part of oral mucosa could indicate cancer. These could be White, Red or mixed patches present on the gingiva, tongue, tonsils, or any part of the mucosa lining the mouth. Usually, the Red patches are believed to be the more aggressive ones.
  • Uncomfortable sensation in throat that feels as if something is struck in throat.
  • Difficulty in swallowing food
  • Difficulty in chewing food
  • Feeling of pressure in nasal cavity
  • Inability to open mouth completely
  • Feeling of constant burning in any part of oral mucosa that aggravates on taking spicy food.
  • Restricted mobility of jaws or tongue
  • Feeling of numbness or tingling in any part of the mouth
  • Presence of swelling in jaws that make your dentures fit poorly
  • Mobility in teeth
  • Pain in the teeth or jaw
  • Changes in Voice texture
  • Loss in weight
  • Persistent bad odour

If any of the above listed symptoms is continuously present for many days or weeks then you might be advised to undergo certain tests to rule out oral cancer. The earlier your oral cancer is diagnosed, the more effective the treatment will be. So, do not ignore any of the above as there is a minute chance that these innocuous symptoms could indeed be oral cancer symptoms,

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