Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer, is where a tumour develops in the lining of the mouth. It may be on the surface of the tongue, the insides of the cheeks, the roof of the mouth (palate), or the lips or gums.
Tumours can also develop in the glands that produce saliva, the tonsils at the back of the mouth, and the part of the throat connecting your mouth to your windpipe (pharynx). However, these are less common.
- Sore mouth ulcers that don’t heal within several weeks
- Unexplained, persistent lumps in the mouth that don’t go away
- Unexplained, persistent lumps in the neck that don’t go away
- Unexplained looseness of teeth, or sockets that don’t heal after extractions
- Unexplained, persistent numbness or an odd feeling on the lip or tongue
- sometimes, white or red patches on the lining of the mouth or tongue – these can be early signs of cancer, so they should also be investigated
- Changes in speech, such as a lisp
Tobacco and alcohol use are prominent risk factors for mouth cancer.
Smokers are three times more likely than nonsmokers to develop mouth cancer, and people who smoke and drink alcohol have up to 30 times higher risk than those who do not smoke and drink.