The symptoms of cancer are wide-ranging. Most people are aware of some signs, such as a lump, but not all symptoms are so obvious. With over 200 types of cancer, there are equally as many symptoms which could indicate the disease, some of which are very subtle. Some of the less obvious signs of cancer are similar to symptoms of less serious conditions, so can be easily overlooked. One such symptom, which you shouldn’t ignore if it is long-lasting, is a mouth ulcer.
Mouth ulcers are a common problem for many people, are rarely serious and usually clear up on their own within a week or two.
But if they are long-lasting, particularly if they last longer than three weeks, they could be a sign of mouth cancer.
“It’s common to get ulcers in the mouth when you’re a bit run down. The lining of the mouth renews itself every two weeks or so, which is why ulcers usually heal within this time,” said Cancer Research.
“But an ulcer that doesn’t heal after three weeks should be reported to your doctor or dentist.”
The NHS added: “Although most mouth ulcers are harmless, a long-lasting mouth ulcer is sometimes a sign of mouth cancer. It’s best to get it checked.”
Sore mouth ulcers that don’t heal within several weeks are the most common symptom of mouth cancer.
Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer, is where a tumour develops in the lining of the mouth.
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.
Other common symptoms are unexplained, persistent lumps that don’t go away and unexplained, persistent lumps in the lymph glands in the neck that don’t go away.
Less common symptoms can include pain or difficulty when swallowing, changes in your voice or speech problems, bleeding or numbness in the mouth, and a tooth or teeth that become loose for no obvious reason.
Difficulty moving your jaw and red or white patches on the lining of you mouth can also be symptoms of mouth cancer.
“Many of the symptoms can be caused by less serious conditions, such as minor infections. However, it’s strongly recommended that you visit your GP or dentist if any of the symptoms have lasted longer than three weeks,” said the NHS.
Ulcers on the tongue that don’t go away can also be a sign of tongue cancer. Tongue cancer is a type of head and neck cancer.
Other symptoms of tongue cancer include a red or white patch on the tongue that won’t go away, a sore throat that doesn’t go away, pain when swallowing and numbness in the mouth that won’t go away.
Unexplained bleeding from the tongue and pain in the ear can also be signs of tongue cancer.
Like mouth cancer, these symptoms can be due to other, less serious conditions, but it’s best to get them checked out in case.