What are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?


The most common signs and symptoms of oral cancer are:

  1. An open sore or ulcer in the mouth
  2. Red or white patches in the oral cavity
  3. A lump or thickening of the skin on the inside of the cheek

When these symptoms persist for a period of two or more weeks, it is essential to bring them to the attention of a trusted healthcare provider. Oral cancer kills 43% of those diagnosed with the disease within five years. The best way to improve your prognosis is to begin treating the disease in its earliest stages.

While the symptoms above may seem to clearly indicate oral cancer, not all symptoms are so straight-forward. In fact, many of the symptoms of this disease are similar to those of TMJ. These include:

  1. Difficulties swallowing or chewing
  2. Difficulties moving the jaw
  3. Jaw swelling
  4. Pain in the teeth or jaw

And still other symptoms of oral cancer may be even more ambiguous, seemingly pointing to less fatal oral health issues. These oral cancer symptoms include:

  1. Chronic bad breath
  2. Loosening or shifting of the teeth

Voice changes and a persistent sore throat or feeling that something is stuck in the throat are all signs of oral cancer as well. These should be brought to the attention of a healthcare provider if they persist for a period longer than one week, especially if they are combined with any the oral cancer symptoms listed above.

Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. If it has been longer than six months since your last visit with Indianapolis dentist Dr. John Phelps, now is the best time to get in touch and schedule a consultation. Oral cancer is just one of the diseases and disorders we look for during routine cleanings and examinations. When identified during these visits, swift treatment can help improve chances of remission. Left to progress, however, and the prognosis will likely be less positive.

More than one person in the United States dies every hour of every day from oral cancer. This year alone, nearly 50,000 people will face a diagnosis of this deadly disease. This is made more tragic by the simple fact that oral cancer is almost entirely avoidable.

Tobacco users are six-times more likely to develop oral cancer. So too are heavy drinkers. The NIH defines “heavy drinking” as more than one drink per day for women or two per day for men. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration suggests drinking alcohol more than five days per week qualifies as “heavy drinking” as well.  

If you use tobacco products and are a heavy drinker, your risk of developing oral cancer is 15x higher than those who do not engage in these habits.

If you smoke, now is the absolute best time to quit. Tobacco use is conclusively linked to gum disease, it increases risks for tooth infection and decay, and it stains teeth in ways that cannot be undone with topical whiteners. This is to say nothing of the impact smoking and chewing tobacco have on the breath.

Even if you are not at heightened risk, Oral Cancer Awareness Month is a good time to reconsider habits and to schedule your next appointment. Give us a call at 317-793-6133 to schedule one today.

Dr. Phelps is an experienced prosthodontist offering a full range of cosmetic, restorative, and general dentistry services to men and women living in Indianapolis and surrounding areas. If you live in or around Carmel, Noblesville, Avon, Plainfield or adjacent communities, contact our office today to learn more.  

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