Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer

Possible signs and symptoms of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers include:

  • A sore in the mouth that doesn't heal (the most common symptom)
  • Pain in the mouth that doesn’t go away (also very common)
  • A lump or thickening in the cheek
  • A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth
  • A sore throat or a feeling that something is caught in the throat that doesn’t go away
  • Trouble chewing or swallowing
  • Trouble moving the jaw or tongue
  • Numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth
  • Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable
  • Loosening of the teeth or pain around the teeth or jaw
  • Voice changes
  • A lump or mass in the neck
  • Weight loss
  • Constant bad breath

Many of these signs and symptoms can also be caused by things other than cancer, or even by other cancers. Still, it's very important to see a doctor or dentist if any of these conditions lasts more than 2 weeks so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

National Cancer Institute. Lip and Oral Cavity Cancer Treatment (Adult) (PDQ®)–Patient Version. January 29, 2018. Accessed at on February 23, 2018.

National Cancer Institute. Oropharyngeal Cancer Treatment (Adult) (PDQ®)–Patient Version. January 12, 2018. Accessed at on February 23, 2018.

Last Medical Review: March 9, 2018 Last Revised: March 9, 2018

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