Mouth cancer, or oral cancer, can occur anywhere in the mouth, on the surface of the tongue, the lips, inside the cheek, in the gums, in the roof and floor of the mouth, in the tonsils, and in the salivary glands.

Oral cancer is one of the most common cancers, with roughly 35,000 new cases reported annually in the United States. … The most frequent oral cancer sites are the tongue, the floor of the mouth and soft palate tissues in back of the tongue, lips and gums.


Oral cancer can appear as a lesion or tumor anywhere in the mouth.
In the early stages, there are often no signs or symptoms, but smokers and heavy drinkers should have regular checkups with the dentist, as they may identify early signs.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • patches on the lining of the mouth or tongue, usually red or red and white in color.

  • mouth ulcers or sores that do not heal

  • swelling that persists for over 3 weeks

  • a lump or thickening of the skin or lining of the mouth

  • pain when swallowing

  • loose teeth with no apparent reason

  • poorly fitting dentures

  • jaw pain or stiffness

  • sore throat

  • a sensation that something is stuck in the throat

  • painful tongue

  • hoarse voice

  • pain in the neck or ear that does not go away

In the early stagesmouth cancer rarely causes any pain. Abnormal cell growth usually appears as flat patches. A canker sore looks like an ulcer, usually with a depression in the center. The middle of the canker sore may appear white, gray, or yellow, and the edges are red.