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Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer

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Oral cavity (mouth) and oropharyngeal (throat) cancers might cause one or more of these signs or symptoms:

  • A sore on the lip or in the mouth that doesn't heal
  • Pain in the mouth that doesn’t go away
  • A lump or thickening in the lips, mouth, or 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 your throat that doesn’t go away
  • Trouble chewing or swallowing
  • Trouble moving the jaw or tongue
  • Numbness of the tongue, lip, or other area of the mouth
  • Swelling or pain in the jaw
  • Dentures that start to fit poorly or become uncomfortable
  • Loosening of the teeth or pain around the teeth
  • Voice changes
  • A lump or mass in the neck or back of the throat
  • Weight loss
  • Pain in the ear

Many of these signs and symptoms can also be caused by diseases other than cancer, or even by other cancers. Still, it's very important to see a doctor or dentist if any of these conditions last 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 oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

National Cancer Institute. Lip and Oral Cavity Cancer Treatment (Adult) (PDQ)–Patient Version. September 05, 2019. Accessed at www.cancer.gov/types/head-and-neck/patient/adult/lip-mouth-treatment-pdq on September 23, 2020.

National Cancer Institute. Oropharyngeal Cancer Treatment (Adult) (PDQ)–Patient Version. April 15, 2020. Accessed at www.cancer.gov/types/head-and-neck/patient/adult/oropharyngeal-treatment-pdq on September 23, 2020.

Last Revised: March 23, 2021

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