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Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer

On the 4th of February people around the globe will participate in World Cancer Day – an initiative to raise awareness of cancer, with the principal purpose of educating people about cancer prevention, detection and treatment.

Cancer is an illness that can affect several parts of the body, however, one of the most common cancers is oral cancer. It is estimated that approximately 6,800 people are diagnosed with oral cancer in the United Kingdom annually, accounting for 2% of all cancers diagnosed.

According to the NHS, most cases of mouth cancer occur in older adults aged 50 to 74, however it can still affect one in eight people under the age of 50. That’s why it’s imperative to receive regular oral cancer screenings from your dentist or hygienist and to pay close attention to the signs and symptoms.

Not sure of the warning signs? Read on about the signs and symptoms of oral cancer.

What Exactly is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer can attack all areas of the mouth. The most common areas where tumours develop are the roof of the mouth, the insides of the cheeks, on and under the tongue, lips, gums and inner lining of the mouth. Cancer may also develop in the tonsils, salivary glands, and other regions, although these occur less frequently.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer?

There are various signs and symptoms of oral cancer. However, by understanding what to look for, you can detect the illness early and potentially offset its severity by receiving early treatment.


Ulcers normally go away on their own, but anything that doesn’t heal with in 3 weeks needs to be checked.


Red or white patches on the tongue or lining of the mouth can be an early sign of oral cancer. Get them checked out, especially if they have been there longer than 3 weeks or change in shape and size.


Unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth or head and neck area.

Difficulty Swallowing

One common sign of oral cancer is difficulty chewing or swallowing food. The discomfort felt while performing these actions involves pain or burning sensations. Also, due to tightening of the oesophagus, it may feel as though the food is lodged in your throat.

Sudden Loss of Teeth

During childhood, it is normal for children to lose their baby teeth in preparation for their permanent adult teeth. When adults lose their teeth suddenly without any sign of trauma, it’s usually an indication of a severe condition. Loose teeth or teeth that fall out unexpectedly are generally signs of oral cancer.

Problems Speaking

Difficulty pronouncing words, slurring, or a sudden change in your voice can indicate oral cancer. If present in your throat, this illness can affect your speech.

How Often Should I Receive Oral Cancer Screenings?

I recommend that patients see their hygienist at least twice a year. Regular check-ups provide opportunities to assess your mouth for changes, including those that indicate illnesses or oral cancer. Early detection is vital in preventing, detecting, and treating oral cancer.

I screen my patients for oral cancer every time they visit me, and it is a free service included in all of my cleaning packages. If you’re worried about oral cancer, or want to begin having regular screenings, please book an appointment with me at one of my two practices: London Hygienist Clapham or London Hygienist Chelsea.

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