Signs and Symptoms of Mouth Cancer

These are things to look out for:

  • Ulcers that do not heal within 3 weeks
  • Pain or discomfort in the mouth
  • Lumps and swellings of no obvious cause in the mouth or neck
  • Bleeding from the mouth or throat
  • Red or white patches inside the mouth
  • Changes in texture; hardness, roughness
  • Teeth that become loose
  • Difficulty or pain with swallowing, chewing or moving the jaw
  • Persistent hoarseness or changes to the voice
  • Persistent coughing or the feeling that something is ‘stuck’ in the throat
  • Numbness or tingling of the lips or tongue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Dentures that suddenly stop fitting properly

During a self-examination, visit Bite Back at Mouth Cancer, look at the skin on the face and neck to check for:

  • New swellings
  • Moles and spots that get bigger, become hard or start to bleed
  • Changes to the colour or texture of the skin

That’s quite a list but remember the mouth is prone to all sorts of damage.   We bite ourselves, burn ourselves with hot food and drink and damage the inside of our mouths with spicy foods or scrape it with hard things. Bleeding gums and loose teeth are commonly caused by gum disease. Many people are prone to mouth ulcers (never lasting more than 3 weeks).

Skin conditions like lichen planus can cause ulceration, changes to texture and white patches and infection with thrush and other microorganisms are common. Most dentures become loose simply because they are old. Pain in the mouth is often due to toothache or abscesses. The chances of the signs and symptoms above being due to cancer are low but we all know our own bodies’ best so if you have ANY SUSPICION THAT SOMETHING MAY BE WRONG contact your dentist or doctor IMMEDIATELY. 

What To Do If You Think You Might Have Mouth Cancer

If you have noticed any of the signs and symptoms described on this website or have any other reason to believe you may have mouth or other head and neck cancer you should CONTACT YOUR DENTIST OR DOCTOR WITHOUT DELAY.

A professional examination will decide whether further action needs to be taken. In many cases you will be asked to return to the dentist or doctor for a review of your symptoms in 2-3 weeks.

Sometimes the clinician will need a second opinion and may refer you to specialists at a local hospital. This does not mean you have mouth cancer.  In fact less than 10% of patients referred turn out to have serious conditions. The referral is simply to protect your interests and make sure you get the best, most thorough and fastest treatment.

The earlier cancer is diagnosed the easier it is to treat. That is why every adult should examine themselves at least once a month for lumps or changes in the skin and mouth even when there is no discomfort. Read our Bite Back at Mouth Cancer page for more information.