Signs of oral cancer

Canker Sore or Oral Cancer? Can You Tell the Difference?

If you have an unusual sore or lesion in your mouth, you may immediately think of oral cancer, but don’t jump to conclusions. It might be a canker sore, which is relatively harmless.

Finding a mouth lesion can be scary, and you can always visit an experienced local oral surgeon for a professional evaluation if you’re worried. However, knowing how to tell the difference between a canker sore and oral cancer can help you decide whether to make an appointment right away or to wait.

Signs of oral cancer

How to Identify a Canker Sore

Is the lesion in your mouth painful? If so, you probably have a canker sore — most cancerous sores are painless.

You can be reasonably sure you have a canker if the lesion is:

  • Shallow and small
  • Round or oval
  • Yellow or white, with a reddish border

In addition, canker sores usually go away on their own in about a week or two. That said, some can take six weeks or more to fully heal. And not all cankers are painful — so if your mouth lesion doesn’t hurt, don’t assume you have oral cancer.

Warning Signs of Oral Cancer

Unlike canker sores, cancerous lesions don’t heal on their own. The sores also look different, and oral cancer may cause other symptoms in the mouth.

If you notice any of the following signs, schedule a professional evaluation right away:

  • Bleeding sores in the mouth
  • White, red or mottled lesions
  • Lumps or thickened mouth tissues
  • Jaw stiffness, swelling or pain
  • Prolonged hoarseness or sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing, or the feeling that something is stuck in the throat
  • Unexplained pain in the mouth, neck or face

Cancer is highly treatable when caught in the early stages. So if you have reason to suspect your mouth sore could be cancerous, contact an oral surgeon and make an appointment as soon as possible.

Schedule a Professional Evaluation

An experienced local oral surgeon can evaluate your mouth sore, and using a range of diagnostic techniques, determine whether the lesion is cancerous. If necessary, a surgeon can put you on the path to treatment immediately, giving you a great chance of beating the disease.

If you have an unusual mouth lesion and want to get it checked out by a highly qualified professional in the central Indiana area, schedule an appointment at Northeast Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery.

Our board-certified oral surgeons, Dr. Garrison and Dr. Kelly, are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of oral pathologies, including canker sores and cancer. To schedule an oral cancer screening, contact Northeast Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery in Indianapolis, Indiana, today.