Symptoms and Signs of Cancer of the Mouth and Throat (Oral Cancer)

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Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Cancer of the Mouth and Throat (Oral Cancer)

Signs and symptoms of cancer in the mouth and throat are not specific and may develop gradually; people may not notice them early in the disease. The signs and symptoms of this disease are painless lumps on the lips, in the mouth or in the throat, sores or ulcerations in the mouth or lips that do not heal, painless white patches or red patches on any of the mouth structures, or pain, bleeding or numbness inside the mouth. Other signs and symptoms include sore throat that doesn’t heal, swelling of the jaw, voice changes and/or pain in the ear. Patients usually exhibit one or more of these signs or symptoms before seeking medical care.

The causes of cancer of the mouth and throat multiple but about 50 – 90% of squamous cell cancers mouth and throat are due to human papilloma virus infections. Other risk factors contribute to causing these cancers; they are smoking, chewing tobacco, alcohol use, chewing betel nuts (common in India) and in some patients, sun exposure to the lips. Also, advancing age and being male is associated with a higher incidence of this disease.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.