Symptoms of mouth cancer

Main symptoms of mouth cancer

Symptoms of mouth cancer can affect any part of your mouth including the gums, tongue, inside the cheeks, or lips.

Symptoms can include:

Close up of cancer on the tongue. There is a pale-coloured, pea-sized lump with redness on the side of the tongue.
Early stage mouth cancer can look like a mouth ulcer.
Close up of cancer on the tongue. There are pale, slightly raised patches and redness on the side and top of the tongue.
White patches on the tongue or inside your mouth may be early symptoms of mouth cancer.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you have an mouth ulcer that has lasted more than 3 weeks
  • you have a lump in your mouth, on your lip, on your neck or in your throat
  • you have a red or white patch in your mouth
  • you have pain in your mouth that's not going away
  • you're having difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • you have a hoarse (croaky) voice that does not go away

A dentist can also help with ulcers, lumps, patches or pain in your mouth.

Important

These symptoms are very common and can be caused by other conditions.

Having the symptoms does not definitely mean you have mouth cancer, but it's important to get checked by a GP or dentist.

If your symptoms are caused by cancer, finding it early may mean it's easier to treat.

What happens at your dentist or GP appointment

Your dentist or GP will usually ask questions about your symptoms, lifestyle and any other medical conditions you have.

They will usually look and feel inside your mouth. They may also feel your neck and jaw.

You can ask for someone else to be in the room with you while the dentist or GP examines you.

Referral to a specialist

The dentist or GP may refer you for more tests or to see a specialist in hospital if they think you have symptoms that need to be investigated.

This may be an urgent referral, usually within 2 weeks, if you have certain symptoms. This does not definitely mean you have cancer.

Information for other parts of the UK

The following links have information about mouth cancer for other parts of the UK:

Page last reviewed: 19 June 2023
Next review due: 19 June 2026