Mouth cancer or oral cancer is one of the more common forms of cancer in the United States; with an estimated 53,000 diagnosed cases this year. About 1 in 75 men and 1 in 150 women will develop this type of cancer. The good news is that mouth cancer is cured in 80 to 90 percent of patients, as long as it is detected early. If the disease progresses, the survival rate falls to 40 percent.
Sores and ulcers are some of the most common signs of mouth cancer. They vary in size and usually appear on the tongue, inner cheeks, throat, and gums. Of course, mouth sores and ulcers can have other causes besides cancer. To determine whether a sore is potentially cancerous, keep track of how long it takes to heal. Sores that do not improve over a few days or weeks warrant medical inspection.
Another typical symptom of mouth cancer is red or white patches in the mouth or throat. They may be smooth, rough, or slightly raised, and could persist for an extended period or come and go. Patches that cannot be explained by another issue or that do not resolve in a few days should be inspected by a doctor.
A persistent sore throat is a common symptom of mouth cancer. Difficulty swallowing and an accompanying burning sensation may also develop. Another possibility is redness, which may lead to bleeding if left untreated. Any sore throat that does not resolve in a few days should be investigated by a doctor, as it could have any number of causes, including strep throat and cancer.
Talking or yelling too much can leave the voice hoarse, as can infection and the common cold. However, when there is no apparent explanation for the hoarseness, and it does not go away in a few days despite voice rest and general treatments, it could be a symptom of a larger issue. People with mouth and throat cancer often find it difficult to speak clearly. Their voices may change, become husky or nasal quite abruptly.
Bad breath or halitosis afflicts many people for many reasons; one of the most serious causes is mouth cancer. Bad breath caused by cancerous tumors will not be alleviated by brushing the teeth or chewing gum and may continue to get worse over time if diagnosis and treatment are not forthcoming.
The lymphatic system is an important part of the immune system; it helps fight infection and destroy damaged or cancerous cells. Lymph nodes are located in the groin, neck, and armpit, among other areas. People with mouth cancer usually experience swollen lymph nodes as the body focuses all its resources on strengthening the immune system and eliminating the cancer. Sometimes, these lumps can be felt with the fingers, especially when palpating around the neck or behind the ears. Swollen lymph nodes due to cancer are likely to continue growing or remain enlarged.
Weight loss is a common symptom of most cancers and is especially prevalent in cases of mouth cancer, due to the mouth's direct relationship to nutrient consumption. Tumors and sores in the mouth make eating painful and difficult, which can make it more difficult to consume food. As a result, the individual's caloric intake remains low, leading to weight loss. Moreover, one may lose his or her appetite, which also contributes to general weight loss.
Anyone who experiences pain or discomfort in the mouth for an extended period should make an appointment with a doctor. Though one might assume mouth pain is caused by a dental issue, if it is primarily felt within the gums or below the tongue, it could be an indication of another problem.
Bleeding can be one of the earliest signs of mouth cancer, but one should also not immediately assume the worst. Many issues can lead to mouth bleeding, but if an individual cannot identify a clear reason for the symptom, they should speak to a doctor. Bleeding due to mouth cancer occurs regularly, not only from brushing or flossing. The person may also notice blood originating from the throat. Unexplained blood loss from any part of the body necessitates medical attention.
A healthy person should be able to move his or her jaw and tongue without experiencing pain or discomfort. Mouth cancer is one possible reason an individual might experience difficulty or stiffness with these movements. Swollen lymph nodes can also contribute to mouth and jaw pain and can indicate an infection or more serious illness.
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