Oral Head & Neck Cancer: How to Spot It

When we go to a dental hygienist for a teeth cleaning appointment, one of the things they screen for are signs of oral head and neck cancer. This is cancer that shows up in the head or neck region, including the nasal cavity, sinuses, lips, mouth, thyroid glands, salivary glands, throat, or larynx (voice box).

There isn’t a lot of general knowledge about warning signs, so I just wanted to repost information from the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance (http://www.headandneck.org) on these cancers. Be aware,  please take the time to think about whether you or the folks in your life have been exhibiting any of these signs, and pass on the message!       – Dr. Blum


An early indication of oral and throat cancer is one or more changes in the way the soft tissues of your mouth usually look or feel. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • A sore in your mouth that doesn’t heal or increases in size
  • Persistent pain in your mouth
  • Lumps or white, red or dark patches inside your mouth
  • Thickening of your cheek
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing or moving your tongue
  • Difficulty moving your jaw, or swelling or pain in your jaw
  • Soreness in your throat or feeling that something is caught in your throat
  • Pain around your teeth, or loosening of your teeth
  • Numbness of your tongue or elsewhere in your mouth
  • Changes in your voice
  • A lump in your neck
  • Bad breath

Most oral cancers arise on the lips, tongue or on the floor of the mouth. They also may occur inside your cheeks, on your gums or on the roof of your mouth.

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