What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer symptoms

Living a longer, happier life

As we get older, we make more conscious efforts about getting screened for illnesses like cancer. Oral cancer—which is an umbrella term for any type of cancer that impacts structures inside your mouth like your lips, cheeks, palate, or tongue—is no different. 

Educating yourself on the symptoms of oral cancer and getting screened regularly is vital, and, luckily, it’s also incredibly simple. After all, like other types of cancer, oral cancer is more survivable when diagnosed and treated early. Knowing the basics about oral cancer and taking simple steps each year toward prevention or early detection could be the key to ensuring you live a healthier, longer, and happier life! To help you do just that, we’ve put together a guide containing what you need to know about oral cancer, from signs and symptoms to prevention and screenings.

Signs and Symptoms  

Since oral cancer is an umbrella term which includes several different types of cancer, there are a range of symptoms. Some of these symptoms are easy to overlook or brush aside as “not a big deal,” but others are pretty easy to notice as issues that need to be evaluated by a professional. Oral cancer symptoms include:

  • A white or red patch on the skin inside your mouth
  • Sores inside the mouth that don’t heal
  • Persistent mouth, jaw, or ear pain
  • A lump or thickening on your lips or inside your mouth
  • Difficulty or pain swallowing, chewing, or moving your jaw or tongue
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Constantly feeling like something is stuck in your throat
  • Sore throat
  • Changes to your voice
  • Lump in your neck
  • Jaw swelling
  • Loose teeth
  • Weight loss

Thankfully, it’s relatively easy to notice many of these symptoms in your daily life or to keep an eye out for them during your regular oral hygiene routine. Any time you notice something wrong with your oral health, especially if it’s one or more potential oral cancer symptoms, it’s important to contact your dentist and get their opinion. After all, it’s much better to be safe than sorry! 

Even if you don’t have oral cancer, you could be suffering from a different oral health issue that needs to be addressed. If you do have oral cancer, though, paying attention to symptoms could be the key to getting an early diagnosis and a better treatment outcome.

Risk Factors

Just like any other type of cancer, there are risk factors that make you more likely to develop oral cancer. Some risk factors can’t be avoided, but others can. As a result, being aware of them can help you better avoid or eliminate them wherever possible. There are several common risk factors for oral cancer, such as:

  • Sun exposure to your lips
  • Any type of tobacco use
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Contracting human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Weak or suppressed immune system
  • Family history of oral cancer
  • Gender—men are more likely to develop oral cancers, though this may be partially due to lifestyle factors since, statistically, men are more likely to smoke and drink alcohol regularly.

Cancer Prevention  

Taking steps to prevent cancer now is incredibly important. It could save you from extensive, invasive cancer treatments—and it could simply save your life! Cancer prevention helps you live a longer, healthier, and happier life, so it’s beyond worth it. This is why so many prevention techniques have become a growing medical trend. After all, the only thing better than catching cancer early is preventing it altogether! Thankfully, there are several things you can do now, no matter how old you are, to help prevent oral cancer.

If you smoke or use any other type of tobacco, one of the biggest things you can do to prevent oral cancer is stop using it. You don’t have to cut out alcohol completely like you should tobacco, but you should limit your intake. Additionally, it’s smart to do your best to protect your lips from sun exposure. A really simple way to do this every day is to make sure the lip balm you’re using contains sunscreen. You can also wear a hat that shades your lips, especially when you know you’ll be out in the sun for an extended period of time.

Oral Cancer Screenings  

Another vital part of protecting yourself from oral cancer is undergoing regular oral cancer screenings. Thankfully, this step is just as easy as the rest! Your dentist performs an oral cancer screening at each of your dental evaluations, checking the inside of your mouth and tongue for signs of the disease. This means you don’t have to schedule a special appointment for an oral cancer screening—all you have to do is make sure that you’re scheduling a regular general dentistry appointment every six months.

Your dentist is uniquely poised to handle this aspect of your health. They’re trained to recognize oral cancer symptoms and use this skill set to screen their patients every day; they have plenty of knowledge and experience on the subject. Plus, scheduling regular dental appointments gives them the best chance of spotting any oral health issues—including oral cancer—early. Catching an issue like oral cancer early makes all the difference when it comes to your treatment plan and overall prognosis, so it’s just one more major reason to keep up to date with your regular dental checkups and cleanings, especially as you get older.

Book your appointment with Laurel Manor Dental to safeguard your oral health.

When you think about it, knowing this information about oral cancer can be empowering. You can use it to take steps to prevent and screen for oral cancer now, which can make all the difference for your long-term health and quality of life. Even small, simple steps can make a big difference! It can help you live a longer, healthier, happier, and more active life. If you’d like to learn more about oral cancer or how we screen for it, feel free to schedule a consultation with Dr. Roca or Dr. Rozensky at any time.