10 Warning Signs of Oral Cancer

Some oral cancer symptoms are common and easily identifiable. Other symptoms are surprising, and you might miss them.


Men develop oral cancer twice as often as women, and it occurs more often in Black Americans than in whites. Do you know the warning signs of oral cancer?

First, what is oral cancer?

According to the American Dental Association, the term “oral cancer” encompasses throat, mouth, tongue and jaw cancer.PauseUnmute

The American Cancer Society estimates there will be approximately 54,540 new cases of oral or oropharyngeal cancer, with approximately 11,580 deaths, in the United States in 2023.

These cancers commonly occur in the tongue, tonsils and oropharynx (the throat area behind the mouth), gums and other areas of the mouth.

Here, experts break down the symptoms of oral cancer you should be aware of, plus how to prevent oral cancer.

RELATED: Men’s Health: How Smoking and Oral Sex Could Be Putting You at Risk for Head and Neck Cancer

Common warning signs of oral cancer

1. A sore on your lips/mouth

Your healthcare provider should evaluate a sore or irritation that lasts longer than two weeks. 

The Cleveland Clinic states that the sore may appear reddish on your lips. If you have darker skin, it may appear brown or gray. Inside your mouth, the sore may occur as a red or white sore that doesn’t heal.

2. Patches in your mouth/throat

The Cleveland Clinic says that patches inside your mouth you cannot scrape away can indicate precancerous conditions.

Leukoplakia is the word used to describe flat white or gray patches in your mouth or throat.

Erythroplakia describes a slightly raised or red flat patch. Erythroleukoplakia describes patches that are both red and white.

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