Mouth Cancer Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of mouth cancer include the following:

Mouth ulcers that do not heal

A broken area of skin (ulcer) that will not heal can be a symptom of mouth cancer. Most people with mouth cancer have this symptom.

Pain in your mouth

Pain or discomfort in your mouth that doesn’t go away is the other most common symptom of mouth cancer.

White or red patches in the mouth or throat

An abnormal-looking patch could be a sign of cancer or precancerous changes.

  • White patches are called leukoplakia.
  • Red patches are called erythroplakia.

These patches are not cancer, but if left untreated, they may lead to cancer. A fungal infection called oral thrush can also cause red and white patches.

Difficulty swallowing

Mouth cancer can cause pain or a burning sensation when chewing and swallowing food. Or you might feel like food is sticking in your throat. You may also cough or feel like food or liquid is going into the airway (windpipe).

Speech problems

Cancer in your mouth can affect your voice. It might sound different. It may be quieter or husky. It may sound as if you have a cold all the time. Or you might slur some of your words or have trouble pronouncing certain sounds.

A lump in your neck

You may have a lump in your neck caused by an enlarged lymph node. Swelling in one or more lymph nodes in the neck is a common symptom of mouth cancer.

Lumps that come and go are usually not due to cancer. Cancer typically forms a lump that slowly gets bigger.

Weight loss

Weight loss is a common symptom of many different types of cancer. Mouth cancer can make it painful to eat and difficult to swallow, which can cause weight loss.

Other signs of mouth cancer

These can include one or more of the following:

  • a lump or thickening in your lip
  • a lump in your mouth or throat
  • unusual bleeding or numbness in your mouth
  • loose teeth for no clear reason
  • difficulty moving your jaw