Mouth Cancer Symptoms

Tongue and mouth cancers are often advanced at the time of diagnosis. In part, this is because both mouth cancer symptoms and tongue cancer symptoms are difficult to detect in their early stages. Often no pain is felt and very few visual symptoms are apparent until the cancer is well advanced. In some cases, swollen lymph nodes in the neck are the first sign of mouth or tongue cancer.

Tongue and mouth cancer symptoms can take a variety of forms. Watch for the following symptoms:

  • persistent soreness
  • mouth or tongue pain
  • abnormal growths in the mouth or on the tongue
  • solid lumps in the cheeks
  • mouth ulcers that persist over time
  • changes in how dentures fit
  • persistent hoarseness
  • difficulty chewing
  • difficulty swallowing
  • difficulty speaking.

In addition to these symptoms, mouth and tongue cancer may also cause bad breath, sore throats, and earaches. Many of these symptoms can occur due to less serious conditions. If symptoms persist for longer than two weeks, consult your doctor. Be aware that individual mouth cancer symptoms can vary greatly.

In addition, to the symptoms listed above, symptoms of advanced mouth and tongue cancer can include bleeding from the tissues in the mouth, loose teeth, and pain when swallowing.

Precancerous Lesions: Leukoplakia and Erythroplakia

Precancerous lesions in the mouth or on the tongue often take the form of red (erythroplakia) or white (leukoplakia) patches. The presence of such lesions, which often resemble thrush, increases the likelihood of developing mouth or tongue cancer, especially if the individual smokes, chews tobacco or drinks alcohol. Leukoplakia and erythroplakia are the most common precancerous lesions.

Leukoplakia are white spots or patches that develop on the mucus membranes in the mouth. Leukoplakia are smooth, hard, and irregularly shaped. Leukplakia may resemble thrush, however, unlike thrush, leukoplakia patches will not scrape off.

Erythroplakia are red patches found inside the mouth. Erythroplakia have a velvety surface, and are far less common than leukoplakia.

Common Sites for Mouth and Tongue Cancer

The lips are one of the most common locations for mouth cancer. Tongue cancer and cancer of the mouth floor are also common.


Beers, M. H.,