Oral cancer symptoms, risk factors, and FAQs

Signs and symptoms

You should see your provider right away if you experience any of these common symptoms of oral cancer:

  • A growth or lump inside your mouth
  • A lip or mouth sore that doesn’t heal
  • A white or reddish patch on the inside of your mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Mouth pain
  • Ear pain
  • Difficult or painful swallowing

Risk factors

Research has identified factors that may increase the risk of mouth cancer:
• Tobacco use of any kind, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff.
• Drinking alcohol heavily
• Sun exposure to your lips
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
• A weakened immune system

Questions and answers (FAQs)

Yes, a dentist can identify the early signs of oral cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, many pre-cancers and oral cancers can be detected through routine screening exams by dentists, dental hygienists and even self-exams.

No, kissing cannot spread oral cancer. It is not contagious, so it cannot spread to another person through any means like kissing or sharing eating utensils.

In the U.S., oral cancer most often occurs in the tongue.

Oral cancer: find out more