Oral Cancer: Symptoms, Cause, and Treatment

Being able to recognize oral cancer symptoms may mean saving your life. More and more people are developing this cancer that has a high mortality rate. A key to surviving it is to be able to get early treatment. 

About Oral Cancer

Oral cancer, also called mouth cancer, is usually only discovered after it is in the advanced stages. This is because there often is no pain connected with it until it has become advanced. Another reason why it is not discovered sooner is that people do not go to a dentist for regular dental cleanings. A dentist will often conduct an oral cancer screening while doing the cleaning. 

A third reason why it is not discovered sooner is that people do not know what the symptoms of oral cancer are so that they can seek treatment when they see them. They likely do not realize that it could be cancer. 

One more reason that it is not discovered sooner is that this cancer often spreads rapidly. Even after people have mouth cancer symptoms that they may wonder about, they often do not seek immediate diagnosis or treatment. This kind of delay only gives cancer more time to spread further.

Oral Cancer Statistics

When looking at the oral cancer statistics, it is easy to see that they are not very bright. It is expected that there will be 53,000 people diagnosed with mouth cancer this year. The current mortality rate says that as many as 43 percent will not survive the five-year mark. This is, however, assuming that most of them will not get an early diagnosis.

When given an early diagnosis along with the right treatment, the survivor rate changes considerably. This raises the survivor rate to 83 percent. This means most of them will still be alive at the end of five years.

The Oral Cancer Symptoms

Being able to recognize the symptoms could give you a better outcome if you should develop this cancer. Here are some oral cancer symptoms that you may watch for. 

  • White or red (or both) patches
  • Sores in the mouth that do not heal after two weeks
  • A persistent sore throat
  • A lump or growth in your mouth
  • Ear pain
  • Difficulties with swallowing or speaking
  • Hoarseness or a change in your voice
  • Changes in your mouth – your bite may be different
  • Unexplained pain or numbness in the mouth or neck
  • Weight loss occurs for no apparent reason
  • The teeth may become loose or dentures no longer fit
  • A lump in the neck.

When to See the Dentist

Your dentist is trained to be able to identify oral cancer and can take an initial biopsy. In fact, a dentist is usually the first medical professional to find and identify oral cancer. You should visit a dentist when these mouth or throat cancer symptoms are present, but especially if you have a sore in your mouth that does not heal after two weeks. 

Oral Cancer Cause

Understanding what the risk factors of oral cancer are is important if you want to avoid it. There is often a tendency to want to think that it will not happen to you – but it could. Without watching for oral cancer symptoms, you may find that it is only discovered in the late stages. 

There are many risk factors, but it may only take one to cause it to start in you. Of course, risk factors only indicate an increased likelihood of developing cancer. They certainly are not a guarantee that you will. Eliminating the cause in your life could help you avoid it. 


Any form of tobacco use will raise your risk of oral cancer. It is the biggest cause. Tobacco contains several carcinogens and nicotine reduces your blood flow in your gums – which causes gum tissue to die and not have the nourishment needed to fight off gum disease.


Excessive drinking of alcohol is another risk factor. When it is combined with smoking, this raises the risk considerably higher. 

Oral HPV

This STD comes from oral sex. In most cases, the body gets rid of it, but some people’s immune system is unable to eliminate it. This may mean that he or she is not even aware that they have it, and it can lie dormant for 30 years.

Sunshine (ultra-violet light)

Getting too much of the sun’s rays on your lips from being outdoors a lot can lead to lip cancer.


Men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer as women. 

Poor Nutrition

Not eating enough of the right kind of food can lead to oral cancer. Good nutrition strengthens the immune system, enabling it to fight off some cancer. 


When diagnosed, the average age of people having this cancer is 62, but people over 55 should certainly be looking for symptoms – with their dentist.

Family History

If relatives and family members had it, you are more likely to get it. Oral cancer is a serious matter. If you have some of the risk factors and are older, you certainly should know what the symptoms of oral cancer are so you can recognize them for quick treatment.