The early signs of mouth cancer are few and can be difficult to spot, until after the damages have advanced. Mouth cancer being an uncontrolled growth and reproduction of cells in some parts of the mouth can develop in a number of places. The cancer can develop on the lips, tongue , floor of the mouth, inner lining of the cheeks, salivary glands, tongue, hard palate, soft palate, sinuses , and pharynx (throat).
Well, the actual cause of oral or mouth cancer is unclear, but it is believed that there are certain lifestyle factors that can put someone at risk of developing the disease. For instance, smoking, stuffing or chewing tobacco products makes an individual more likely to develop mouth cancers. Human papillomavirus (HPV), family history of cancer, nutritional deficiencies, excessive consumption of alcohol and sun exposure also increases a person’s chances of developing oral cancer.
So, knowing the early signs of mouth cancer is necessary, so that you can promptly bring them to the attention of your dentist or doctor. Early detection and treatments can improve the chance of survival and successful treatment.
Early signs of mouth cancer
1. White or red patches
The development of velvety white, red, or white and red patches on the surface of the gums, tongue, or other areas in your mouth is the most common warning sign of mouth cancer. However, it’s not all patches that signifies oral cancer. If you notice a firm sore in the surrounding area or if it lasts longer than two weeks you should go for medical tests immediately.
2. Mouth ulcers and swellings
Sores, swellings, lumps or thick patches anywhere in or around your mouth or throat are among the early signs of mouth cancer. The sores and lumps can get thicker and persist that for more than two weeks. “Most abscess ulcers are quite thin and soft, whereas tumors are thicker and hard,” says Dr. Burkey. Dr. Burkey also made us to understand the ulcers and canker sore rarely bleed, but tumors bleed frequently.
The presence of sores, lumps or thick patches anywhere in or around your mouth or throat can actually result to difficulty in chewing or swallowing and persistent bad breath. Bacteria can build on the affected areas and causes more pain and discomforts. So, having a persistent bad breath can be a warning sign of oral cancer.
However, you can carry out a self examination using bright light and a mirror. Look at the back of your throat, the surfaces of your mouth, the lining of the cheeks, and the back gums. Feel for lumps and bleeding sores, if there is any, you should seek for medical attention immediately.
4. Ear pain
The nerve that give feeling to your tongue, the back of your mouth, and voice box are also linked with your ear. If you persistent ear pain that does not affect your hearing, it might be a sign that one of those tissues are affected. The best thing to do if you notice pain in one of your ears but without any loss of hearing, is to see your doctor. If it turns out that the pain is due to mouth cancer, your doctor can start to provide treatments immediately.
5. Tongue pain
The tongue is extremely sensitive. Like I said earlier, white or red patches, thick sores or ulcers due to mouth cancer can develop on the tongue. These lesion or growth on your tongue, can persist for more than two weeks. Since the tongue is very sensitive, the presence of persistent sores or ulcers that bleed easily and do not heal within 2 weeks could bring excruciating pain and discomforts.
6. Loose teeth
Unexplained loosm teeth is among the early signs of mouth cancer, especially if the cancer affected the tissues supporting the teeth. The formation of tumors and tenderness on the gums where your teeth are anchored, can cause the nearby teeth to loosen. The reason why your teeth is loosening, might be a sign that a tumor is forming beneath the teeth or on a nearby tissue that is supporting the teeth.
7. Unexpected weight loss
As the cancer and tumors advances, they can spread to the liver or other areas in the body. The effects of the cancer may cause your body to starts using up more of your calories. You may start to notice a dramatic weight loss even without you trying. In most cases, due to pain and discomforts during eating and swallowing, you might find yourself naturally eating less to avoid the pain, and lose weight in reaction.
8. Unexplained numbness and loss of feeling
Unexplained numbness, loss of feeling, or pain in any area of the face, mouth, or neck are also among the warning signs of mouth cancer. As the oral cancer advances, the tumor gets too big, damaging some of the nerves found in any area of the face, mouth, or neck. Depending on the particular area where the nerves were damaged, you could start to notice unexpected numbness and lose of feeling throughout that isolated area.
9. Hoarseness or other vocal changes
Chronic sore throat and other discomforts as a result of mouth cancer can give you hoarseness which can persist for up to two weeks or more. You may also experience difficult in swallowing, speaking, and moving the jaw or tongue. Sometimes, oral cancer affecting your tongue can make speaking very difficult. The pain and discomforts could make it harder to move your tongue and jaw. All this can result to difficulty in enunciating words.
10. Lumps or bumps in the throat
At the start, mouth cancer mostly start from the mouth. As more days passes, the cancer spreads to other glands and organs of the body such as the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes being found at the both sides of your neck and under your lower jaw tend to enlarge, forming lumps when they are affected. You may start to notice soreness or feeling that something is caught in the back of the throat, if the lymph nodes are affected. Although, not all cases of enlarged lymph nodes are associated with mouth cancer, but if the lump doesn’t go away after two weeks you should see your doctor immediately.
Mouth cancer can occur anywhere in the mouth, it can develop on the lips, tongue, throat, salivary glands, pharynx, gums, larynx and sinuses. When dealing with mouth cancer, early detection and treatments is very important. If any of the signs that I listed in this article persist for more than two weeks, it’s always advisable to visit your doctor immediately.
Regular self examinations is indeed necessary but sometimes dangerous spots or sores in the mouth can be very tiny and difficult to see on your own. You should make out time to visit your dentist regularly for professional oral examinations. Anyways, prevention is also very important, try to avoid those things that can increase your risk of developing mouth cancer. Try to regulate some of your lifestyle choices such as smoking, tobacco use, alcohol consumption and sun exposure, as they can increase your risk of developing oral cancer.