Oral Cancer

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Many of the symptoms of mouth and oropharynx cancer may be caused by other problems that are not dangerous. But since early detection is important for successful treatment of cancer, see your doctor or dentist if you notice abnormal areas in the mouth or throat or other symptoms.

Leukoplakia is a white area or spot. Usually leukoplakias are benign, but about 25 percent are cancerous or precancerous.

Erythroplakia is a red, raised area or spot that bleeds if scraped. About 70 percent of erythroplakias are cancerous or precancerous.

Erythroleukoplakia is a spot with both red and white areas.

Other symptoms of mouth and oropharynx cancer are:

  • Sore in the mouth or throat that doesn't heal
  • Loose teeth
  • Lump or thickening in the neck, face, jaw, cheek, tongue, or gums
  • Difficulty swallowing or the sensation that something is caught in the throat
  • Earache or sore throat that does not go away
  • Dentures that cause discomfort or do not fit well
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or moving the tongue or jaw
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Change in voice
  • Coughing up blood

Last reviewed on 6/4/09

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