Signs that indicate you might have oral cancer

Written by Dr. Apurva Chavan

Medically reviewed by  Dr. Vidhi Bhanushali Kabade BDS, TCC

Last updated May 4, 2024

Written by Dr. Apurva Chavan

Medically reviewed by  Dr. Vidhi Bhanushali Kabade BDS, TCC

Last updated May 4, 2024

India has a bad reputation for being the Oral Cancer capital of the world. Oral cancer, unlike most other cancers is largely avoidable. Yet poor oral habits and lack of awareness have made oral cancer very common.

The constant irritation of the oral tissues by using Tobacco products like cigarettes, supari, gutka etc or drinking too much alcohol or even excessive sun exposure can cause oral cancer. If you have had a history of any of the above, check for these early signs of oral cancer

Frequent poor healing ulcers

Ulcers though being very common can prove to be dangerous too. Too many ulcers occurring in your mouth could also be a sign of vitamin B deficiency. But if your ulcers are taking a very long time to heal you might have to start taking it seriously. Ulcers usually heal within a week. If your ulcers are troubling you for more than 2-3 weeks, you should visit your dentist. 

White or red patches

Are you getting white or red-colored thickened patches on the cheeks, tongue, tonsils, or even gums, that doesn’t seem to heal? These could be leukoplakia or erythroplakia. Both of them are signs of pre-cancerous lesions and could turn into cancer very soon if your poor oral habits aren’t changed.

Reduced mouth opening

Have you noticed that your mouth opening has reduced you can hardly open your mouth? Although there are many other reasons for this, you might want to see a dentist if you are unable to eat spicy food as well.

This is usually seen in people who keep gutka and supari in the corner of their mouths. This causes your inner cheeks to start feeling tight and develop band-like structures called oral submucous fibrosis (OSMF). This too is a pre-cancerous lesion and very likely to turn into cancer.

A feeling of numbness or tingling

Is your tongue feeling numb or tingling without any stimulation? Random pain, swelling, or even numbness that starts suddenly and goes away on its own are also early signs of developing oral cancer. These could be signs of the uncontrolled proliferation of developing cancer cells.

Other signs that could indicate oral cancer

  • Lip ulcers or mouth soreness that does not heal
  • A lump or feeling of hardness in the mouth
  • Unusual bleeding anywhere in the mouth
  • Difficulty in swallowing or feeling of lumps growing around the tonsils
  • Voice changes or diffculty in speech or even a lisp while talking
  • Loose teeth with gingival irritation and bleeding
  • Ear pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Constant fatigue and weakness

If you have any of these signs persistently for more than 2-3 weeks, beware and do not ignore them. Visit your dentist at the earliest. Stop all of the bad habits as soon as you can. Remember early intervention can help you get the right treatment at the right time.

In the meantime don’t forget to maintain a healthy diet and to brush properly to maintain a good healthy body and mouth.

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Stay Informed, Smile On!

Author Bio: Dr. Apurva Chavan is a dentist by the day and a voracious reader and writer by the night. She loves to fix smiles and tries to keep all her procedures as pain free as possible. Equipped with over 5 years of experience she loves to not just treat her patients but also educate them about dental hygiene and appropriate maintanence routines. After a long day of preserving smiles she loves to curl up with a good book or pen down some of life’s musings. She strongly belives that learning never stops and likes to keep her self updates with all the latest dental news and research.

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