Canker Sore or Cancer? Learn the Warning Signs of Oral Cancer

Can you tell the difference between canker sore or cancer symptoms? It’s a question you might not have given much thought to, but it can become very real very fast if you wake up to a bump on your inner lip.

Oral cancer isn’t something that gets as much “press” as much as the other major cancers, but that doesn’t make it any less devastating. According to studies conducted by the American Cancer Society, in 2017, roughly 49,670 people were diagnosed with oral cancer. And, of those people, 9,700 cases turned out to be fatal.

Join us, today, as we break down the symptoms of both of these conditions, so you can spot a canker sore or early stage cancer and respond accordingly.


Much like other forms of cancer, oral cancer results from an uncontrolled growth of cells in and around the mouth. Because “the mouth” contains several parts, all with matching crevices, it can be hard pinpointing a single source.

That’s why it’s important to know what to look out for when it comes to early-stage oral cancer symptoms:

  • a lump inside cheek tissue
  • a feeling like something is stuck in your throat
  • a swollen area in the neck
  • difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • consistent halitosis
  • rapid or dramatic weight loss

These symptoms translate fairly well to symptoms of jaw cancer, as well. 

Jaw Cancer Symptoms

Jaw cancer may occur in the upper or lower jaw, otherwise known as the mandible. In cases where you experience the following, ask your dentist for an evaluation:

  • jaw pain
  • a lump in the jaw itself
  • a swollen jaw
  • shifting or loosened teeth

Risk Factors

Of course, as with most cancers, there are cases which develop spontaneously, but there are mostly several risk factors to look out for. These include:

  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • smoking tobacco
  • mouth cancer from dip
  • age
  • an HPV infection
  • exposure to the sun
  • gender (men are more likely than woman to develop oral cancer)

Treatments and Prevention

Early diagnosis is essential when it comes to cancer treatment, no matter where it develops. Oral cancer treatment involves specific combinations of treatments, tailored to the patient themselves.

Sometimes, radiation and chemotherapy are used together, especially in the early stages. Other times, surgery may be needed, in conjunction with antibiotics and a new nutrition schedule. It’s important to follow through on your treatment and check back in with your doctor for further testing to track the spread of the cancer.

Avoiding high-risk behaviors can help to prevent the formation of this cancer. Mouth cancer from chew, dip, tobacco or alcohol can all be avoided by avoiding these substances. Eating healthy and treating your mouth well all help to prevent oral cancer.

And trusting a professional with your health care can work wonders, as well. Putting your dental first with a dental clinic near you can mean the difference between an early stage illness and terminal oral cancer.

Canker Sore Or Cancer: The Final Word

A canker sore may seem like cancer if you don’t know what to look for. A simple canker sore usually stings or burns, or at least tingles before becoming visible. Cancer, in its early stages, is generally painless, instead appearing as flat patches on your gums or the inside of your mouth.

Canker sores will often appear as ulcers, usually with a depression in their center which may appear gray or yellow with red edges. These sores will also usually heal within a few weeks. This last point is especially important, as it gives you a timeline to work with. Any sore or lump which lasts longer than this requires a full examination.

Whether canker sore or cancer, remember to treat any oral issue with caution and seek medical attention if it becomes very painful or inflamed. Looking for more insights into this and dozens of other health issues? Check out the rest of our blog content, today!