Symptoms of mouth cancer 

Mouth cancer can develop on most parts of the mouth, including the lips, gums and occasionally, the throat.

The most common symptoms of mouth cancer include:

  • red or white patches in the mouth or throat
  • a lump
  • ulcers

Other symptoms may include:

  • persistent pain in the mouth
  • pain or difficulty when swallowing (dysphagia)
  • changes in your voice, or speech problems
  • swollen lymph nodes (glands) in your neck
  • unexplained weight loss
  • bleeding or numbness in the mouth
  • a tooth, or teeth, that becomes loose for no obvious reason
  • difficulty moving your jaw

When to seek medical advice

Many of the symptoms listed above can be caused by less serious conditions, such as minor infections.

But it's strongly recommended that you visit your GP if any of the symptoms listed above have lasted for more than three weeks. It's especially important to seek medical advice if you're a heavy drinker or smoker.

Dental check-ups

Mouth cancer tends not to cause any noticeable symptoms during the initial stages of the disease.

This is why it is important to have regular dental check-ups, particularly if you are a smoker, a heavy drinker or a betel chewer, because a dentist may often be able to detect the condition during an examination.

You should have a dental check-up at least every year. However, more frequent check-ups may be recommended if you have a history of tooth decay or gum disease.


Page last reviewed: 05/06/2014

Next review due: 05/06/2016