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Three tongues displayed side by side, with one tongue showing bumps and discoloration

The American Cancer Society estimates there were approximately 54,000 new cases of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer in 2022. Fortunately, when caught early, mouth and tongue cancers are treatable.

Learn what mouth cancer symptoms to look for and when to visit your dentist for an oral cancer screening.

Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Mouth and tongue cancer can cause numerous symptoms. Identifying the signs of cancer is crucial for early treatment. Some signs of oral cancer include:

Mouth Sores

Oral cancer can cause mouth sores, an early sign of cancer. They can be painful and make it difficult to eat or speak. If you have a sore that does not heal within two weeks, you should consider visiting your dentist.

Red or White Patches

Mouth cancer can cause a red or white patch to form due to the growth of abnormal cells in the lining of the mouth. These abnormal cells can spread to other parts of the mouth and throat, eventually leading to cancerous tumors.

Persistent Sore Throat

A persistent sore throat with a hoarse voice and difficulty swallowing can be caused by conditions such as throat, tongue, or tonsil cancer. If you have had a sore throat for more than two weeks, visit your doctor.

Thickening of the Lips, Cheek, or Mouth

Oral cancer often starts as a lesion or sore on the lips, tongue, or cheek that does not heal properly. Tumors in these areas can cause enlargement and thickening of the tissue, causing cancer.

Trouble Moving the Jaw

Trouble moving the jaw, also called trismus, is caused by inflammation in the mouth lining. Cancer tissues often affect the jaw muscles, making it difficult to open and close your mouth. People with cancer in their jaw or mouth may also experience stiffness due to the tumor compressing muscles and nerves.


Mouth cancer may also cause pain, but often it is accompanied by numbness because cancer can damage the nerves that control sensation. This can cause numbness or tingling in the lips, tongue, or face.


Swelling in the face and neck may indicate the presence of oral cancer. It can be caused by the tumor or swelling of lymph nodes as the body fights the tumor. It can also be a sign of cancer that has spread from another part of the body to the mouth or throat.

Loose Teeth

Loose teeth are a sign of advanced cancer and should be checked immediately. This can occur when the cancerous cells begin to degrade the bone around the teeth. As the bone deteriorates, the teeth become loose and eventually fall out.

Persistent Pain

The constant pain associated with oral cancer is typically a result of the tumors damaging the surrounding tissue and pressing on nearby nerves or blood vessels.

Lump in the Mouth

Oral cancer can cause a lump or thickening on the floor of the mouth. These lumps can vary in size and typically appear as an ulceration or hard bump. It may be painless, but it can grow to become painful and may bleed easily.

Get an Oral Cancer Screening at Blue Island Smiles

Mouth cancer can be treated if detected early. A preventative service like an oral cancer screening at Blue Island Smiles can help to detect mouth cancer in its early stages when it is most treatable. A screening is a painless procedure and only takes a few minutes; your dentist can perform a screening as part of your check-up.

We recommend annual oral cancer screening to ensure early detection of mouth or tongue cancer. To book your preventative service, contact Blue Island Smiles today at (708) 371-3844.

Be proud of your smile.