Oral Cancer – 5 Early Warning Signs

World cancer day is held on the 4th of February each year, and it is designed to raise awareness of cancer. It is not uncommon for oral cancers to remain undetected until they reach the advanced stages, but attending your routine check-ups and having knowledge of the warning signs can help to ensure early detection and optimal treatment outcomes. In Australia, there are more than 900 intraoral carcinoma cases registered each year – making up around 6.5% of all cancer diagnoses. 

Oral cancer can affect the tongue, lips, cheeks and soft palate of the mouth. Read on as we share some important information about oral cancer, including early warning signs and strategies to reduce your risk.

Why does oral cancer occur? Who is at risk?

As with any cancer, oral cancer is the result of uncontrollable cellular growth and division. The mouth is home to a large amount of soft tissues including:


  • Lips
  • Tongue
  • Floor and roof of the mouth
  • Cheeks
  • Gums
  • Tonsils
  • Salivary Glands


If any of the cells within these areas develop mutations in their DNA, a tumour may form. Oral cancer can occur in people of any age, but it is most common in people over the age of 50 and amongst those with a family history of the disease. Lifestyle choices can increase your risk of oral cancer, and we will discuss this further below.

5 Common Symptoms of Mouth Cancer

The following are common early warning signs for oral cancer. If you notice these, you should schedule a consultation with your dentist as soon as possible.

  1. Red/White patches in or around your mouth

Red patches are known as erythroplakia, whilst white patches are referred to as leukoplakia. If you notice these patches, you should have them examined by your dentist as they are indicators for precancerous changes. Left untreated, the patches may develop into cancer. 

  1. Lip/Mouth sores which don’t heal

It is not uncommon to develop sores in the mouth, but usually they will heal within a few weeks. If you’ve noticed one or more lip/mouth sores which don’t heal or are susceptible to bleeding, you should raise your concerns with your dentist. 


  • Growth or Lump inside your mouth


Abnormal lumps or growths are a common indicator for oral cancer. Professional evaluation is mandatory, and you should schedule an appointment as soon as possible. 


  • Mouth and/or Ear Pain


If you experience ongoing mouth or ear pain this could be a sign of oral cancer.  


  • Difficulty Swallowing


If you find it difficulty to chew your food, or to swallow food, this could be due to oral cancer. Oesophageal cancer in particular can cause these problems, and it requires an immediate diagnosis. Don’t delay, schedule a consultation today.

Reducing Your Risk of Oral Cancer

If you want to reduce your risk of contracting oral cancer, you should abstain from the following:

  • Tobacco use – Using tobacco raises your risk of mouth cancer. This includes cigarettes, snuff, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and more. 
  • Excessive alcohol consumption – Alcohol is a carcinogen, and excessive consumption will raise your risk of mouth cancer.
  • Sun exposure on the lips – too much exposure to the sun can increase your risk of contracting lip cancer. Always use a sunscreen lip balm and wear a hat when outdoors. 

 Whilst avoiding the above can help to reduce your risk, you should be aware that oral cancer can occur in anyone. The best method of prevention is to keep up with your routine check-ups. By requesting your dentist to carry out a thorough inspection of your mouth, cancer or precancerous changes can be picked up early and treated effectively.

Book an Appointment Today

If you are concerned about some abnormal changes within your mouth, or if you’re due for a check-up, please book an appointment with Care Dental Cashmere today. Call now on (07) 3882 6666 – we look forward to seeing you soon. 

Please follow and like us: