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An early indication of oral and throat cancer is one or more changes in the way the soft tissues of your mouth usually look or feel. Signs and symptoms may include:
- A sore in your mouth that doesn't heal or increases in size
- Persistent pain in your mouth
- Lumps or white, red or dark patches inside your mouth
- Thickening of your cheek
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing or moving your tongue
- Difficulty moving your jaw, or swelling or pain in your jaw
- Soreness in your throat or feeling that something is caught in your throat
- Pain around your teeth, or loosening of your teeth
- Numbness of your tongue or elsewhere in your mouth
- Changes in your voice
- A lump in your neck
- Bad breath
Most oral cancers arise on the lips, tongue or on the floor of the mouth. They also may occur inside your cheeks, on your gums or on the roof of your mouth.
Recent research could explain the increase of oral cancer incidence in young adults, a group traditionally at low risk. This phenomenon has been at least partly attributed to the rise of the human-papillomavirus (HPV), a cancer-causing virus that can be transmitted through oral sex.
Though oral cancers associated with the papillomavirus are still relatively rare, they typically are found near the base of the tonsils and the back of the tongue, areas that are often difficult to see during visual screenings until the cancer is in a late stage.
Read the Good Morning America piece on the HPV-oral cancer link.