Oral cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world, with an estimated one out of 75 men diagnosed with it each year. While men have a higher risk factor, 1 in 150 women will also be diagnosed. When detected early, oral cancer has a high survival rate, but late detection presents with a much lower survival rate. Therefore, regular dental screenings are vital, especially between the years of 41 to 50 when there is a sharp rise in the number of people diagnosed with oral cancer. Here are ten common signs of oral cancer that can help you know when to seek prompt medical advice
1) Red Or White Patches In My Mouth
Some of the most obvious symptoms of oral cancer are the presence of odd lesions in the mouth. Sometimes oral cancer will present with white or red patches that appear in the throat or mouth. Patches can be rough, raised, or smooth, but when they are indications of oral cancer they are persistent. One patch alone is not cause for alarm, but if you notice the patch for more than a day or two or it comes and goes then it is time to talk to your dentist.
2) Ulcers and Sores in the Mouth, Throat, or Lips
Sores and ulcers are a common sign of mouth cancer when they do not resolve. While there are many reasons for ulcers and sores, when they are associated with oral cancer they will not heal. Most oral cancer ulcers or sores appear on the throat, tongue, gums, or cheeks. They can vary in size, but will look white and often hurt. Non-cancerous ulcers and sores should only take three to 14 days to heal. If a sore persists longer it is time to talk to your doctor or dentist.
3) Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Everyone gets bad breath from time to time, but if you have constant bad breath that cannot be fixed by a breath mint or a quick brush then it is time to get your mouth checked out. Occasional bad breath is normal, but you should not be noticing your breath on a regular basis. At the very least bad breath can be a sign that you need dental work done or treatment for gum disease, so it is a great reason to call your dentist.
4) Sore Throat That Won't Go Away
Like many of the signs of oral cancer, a sore throat does not always mean that you have developed cancer. However, a sore throat that does not go away or appears in conjunction with some of the other symptoms mentioned above can be a sign of trouble. Your sore throat may make it feel difficult to swallow food or simply make you constantly uncomfortable while eating.
5) Can't Swallow Properly
Problems swallowing, or dysphagia is usually diagnosed when you find yourself choking while drinking or eating. From time to time everyone chokes and feels as if 'food goes down the wrong tube.' However, if this starts to happen on a regular basis it may be a sign of acute dysphagia which in turn can be a sign of oral cancer. Dysphagia on its own carries a risk of aspiration pneumonia if left untreated. If caused by oral cancer, it can eventually lead to larger problems, so at the first sign of dysphagia it is important to see a doctor.
6) Voice Is Sounding Different
Yelling, talking, and infection can easily cause your throat to get a bit hoarse. Coughing or nasal drip from a cold can also cause you to lose your voice. However, if none of these causes are present and you still have a hoarse voice then it may be a sign of oral cancer that warrants a call to your doctor. Many times, oral cancer will change the sound of your voice. If you notice an abrupt change in your voice then you need to speak to a medical professional immediately.
7) Numb Chin Or Mouth
The mouth is very sensitive and is lined with soft tissue. When something is wrong in the mouth, it can often suddenly start to feel numb. Any numbness in the chin or mouth that does not resolve in a day or two should be explored by a health professional. There are also many other disorders and diseases that can be responsible for chin numbness that also require a closer look.
8) Swollen Lumps In The Neck
Lymph nodes are responsible for filtering out wastes from the body, but sometimes they can serve as an indicator of cancer. People who are suffering from oral cancer often have enlarged lymph nodes because the body is attempting to filter out the cancer. From outside the body the nodes will feel like lumps located close to the neck. Sometimes the swelling can also present behind the ears.
9) Trouble Talking
If cancer has started to progress, it may make it harder for you to move your tongue or jaw the way you are used too. This will make your speech sound odd as you need your teeth, soft palate, and lips to form sounds. If you are unable to enunciate the way you used too or are physically noticing that it is harder to speak or chew your food it is time to talk to a doctor. People who are actively being treated for oral cancer will often experience this symptom as well since they may to undergo surgery in the mouth, but once treatment is complete usually the issue resolves.
10) Losing Weight Without Trying
Most people are happy to lose weight, but if you losing weight without a good explanation as to why then it can be a symptom of cancer. Oral cancer patients often present with weight loss because not only does the cancer cause weight loss, but it also makes it harder to eat leading to general weight loss. Additionally, mouth cancer can lead to a general loss of appetite which will also lead to weight loss due to reduced caloric and fluid intake.
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms we highly recommend that you go speak with a Dentist directly. Oral health is an important part of overall health and can't be treated like an after thought. Take care of your smile, you only have one.