Gum cancer, or oral cancer, symptoms include lumps, swelling, white or red patches, and unexplained bleeding, according to WebMD. Other symptoms include numbness, a change in the way the teeth fit together and sores that do not heal within two weeks.
There are a number of risk factors associated with oral cancer, explains WebMD. These include smoking cigarettes, using smokeless tobacco and excessively using alcohol. A family history of cancer and spending too much time in the sun when young are also risk factors that may come into play. If a person falls into one of the risk factor categories and exhibits any oral cancer symptoms, no matter how minor, seeing a doctor is recommended.
Oral cancer is often diagnosed as part of a regular dental examination, as reported by WebMD. The dentist visually examines the oral cavity for sores or irregular marks and feel the gums, head, face and neck for lumps. If there is cause for concern, the dentist performs an oral brush biopsy of the tissue, a painless procedure that allows him a closer look. If there is still suspicion, a scalpel biopsy is performed, which requires numbing the area. At this point, a diagnosis is made.