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What is mouth cancer?

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Quick Answer

Mouth cancer, or oral cancer, includes cancers of the tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, sinuses, hard and soft palate, or throat, according to WebMD. Oral cancer first appears as a persistent sore or growth in the mouth and becomes life threatening if treatment is not sought early.

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Full Answer

The most common symptoms of mouth cancer include bumps or lumps, crusts, eroded areas, rough spots or areas of thickening. Swelling on the gums, lips and other interior areas of the mouth are other possible symptoms. Red, white or speckled patches inside the mouth; unexplained bleeding; and a feeling of soreness or that something is caught in the back of the throat are also symptoms, notes WebMD. Some patients with mouth cancer may experience ear pain, hoarseness or changes in voice, a chronic sore throat, or difficulty swallowing.

Around 40,000 people in the United States were expected to be diagnosed with oral cancers in 2014, according to WebMD. Men are twice as likely to develop this type of cancer, and men over age 50 are especially vulnerable. Other risk factors include smoking or using smokeless tobacco, consuming an excess amount of alcohol, excessive exposure to the sun, infection with human papillomavirus, and a family history of cancer.

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