The early signs of oral cancer include persistent red or white patches in the mouth, ulcers in the mouth that do not heal, progressive enlargement or swelling in the mouth and unusual surface changes, notes the Oral Cancer Foundation. Sudden mobility of the teeth without an apparent cause, prolonged hoarseness and unusual oral bleeding can also be early warning signs of mouth cancer.
As the disease progresses, symptoms become more pronounced and may include chronic earache, airway obstruction, dysesthesia or paresthesia of the lips or tongue, altered vision and persistent pain. Dysphagia may also occur in late mouth cancer.
Treatment for oral cancer is more successful when it is diagnosed early and appropriate treatment begins right away. More than 90 percent of mouth cancers are squamous cell carcinomas that are diagnosed via mucosal surface lesions.
The 5-year relative survival rate for oropharynx and tonsil cancers is 66 percent, while the survival rate for cancers of the gums and other parts of the mouth is 60 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. When cancer is localized, prognosis is more positive, with the 5-year survival rate for localized lip cancer at 93 percent, cancer of the tongue at 78 percent and localized floor-of-the-mouth cancer at 75 percent.