A middle-aged woman brought her daughter to the clinic. Seeing the woman entering the reception, you can see scars of surgery on her upper and lower Jaws, more than half of her lower Jaws had gone. Fast forward, she narrated her harrowing experience with a gum boil that turn into big swelling overnight and destroy most part of her jaw.
She told me how people advised her to use all sorts of things, by the time she visited the dentist, the boil had expanded and destroy most part of her jaw. She told me with a sad demeanor, I don’t want my child to go through a similar experience. She had noticed a small swelling on her daughter’s gum and she doesn’t want her to go through a similar traumatic experience.
The above story illustrates the stories of many people who had mouth cancer. They ignore the signs, though unknowingly. By the time patient is coming to the dentist, the damage is very extensive and leads to death in some cases. This piece highlights the commonly ignored signs of oral cancer
1. Prolonged Mouth Pain
This is a little bit deceptive because there are so many mouth conditions that can cause mouth pain: infections, decaying tooth etc. However any persistent pain with no identifiable cause should be investigated further. You should visit a dentist as soon as possible to rule out possibility of an oral cancer.
2. Non-Healing Mouth Sores
Mouth sores are common occurrences in the mouth. They can be caused due to trauma from toothbrushing, hot food, cheek or lip biting. However, if you have a painless sore with no known cause for two weeks or more, please visit your dentist as soon as possible. Your dentist may need to take part of the sores to the laboratory for further investigation.
3. Sore Throat
A sore throat is not an uncommon malady, especially during cold and flu season. But if you’re experiencing a chronic sore throat, having pain when swallowing or have the sensation of something being stuck in the back of your throat, it may be indicative of oral cancer. You will need to visit your dentist for further evaluation.
4. Ear Pain
Chronic ear pain could be another indicator of mouth or throat cancer. If you are experiencing persistent ear pain affecting only one ear, you should visit your doctor or an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist for a diagnosis.
It could be something as simple as an ear infection, but if antibiotics or drops are unable to remedy the pain, then oral cancer could be the issue.
In addition to pain, ringing in the ears may also be present as a symptom of oral cancer.
5. Unexplained Bleeding from the mouth
If you’re experiencing unusual bleeding of the mouth or have sores that are not healing over a couple weeks, consult your dentist or doctor for an oral cancer screening.
Keep in mind that oral bleeding is not necessarily a sign of oral cancer. Gingival conditions associated with poor oral hygiene can also result in bleeding. For example, you may experience oral bleeding when brushing or flossing your teeth if you have an underlying gingival concern.
6. Sudden Loss of Sensation
You may only experience partial numbness or loss of feeling in the mouth. Any persistent numbness or tingling (over a period of a week or two) should be evaluated by your dentist, doctor or an ENT specialist.
7. Neck Swelling
Oral cancers can spread to the lymph nodes in the neck which can result in swelling and a lump. If you detect one or more lumps in your neck that persist over a couple weeks, you should schedule a visit with your doctor for an evaluation.
Head and neck cancers that are detected early typically respond well to treatment. Don’t ignore the signs and symptoms out of fear. Early detection is everything.
8. Bad Breath
As an oral cancer tumor outgrows its blood supply and forms an ulcer, bacteria could infect the sore, resulting in severe mouth odour.
9. Loose Teeth
A tumor on the gums can affect the area where your teeth are anchored, causing one or two teeth nearby to loosen, says Dr. Persky. Most tooth problems have to do with the state of your teeth themselves rather than cancer.