Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of head and neck conditions, including cancer, will depend on where it is – for example, cancer of the tongue may cause some slurring of speech.

The most common symptoms include:

  • An ulcer in the mouth that doesn’t heal within a few weeks
  • Difficulty in swallowing, or pain when chewing or swallowing
  • Trouble speaking or breathing, such as hoarse voice or persistent breathing
  • A constant sore throat and earache affecting one side
  • A swelling or lump in the mouth or neck

Less common symptoms include:

  • A numb feeling in the mouth or on the lips
  • An unexplained loose tooth
  • A persistent blocked nose or nosebleeds
  • A ringing in the ear or difficulty in hearing
  • A pain in the face or upper jaw
  • Pre-cancerous changes in the lining of the mouth or on the tongue, which can appear as persistent white patches (leukoplakia) or red patches (erythroplakia) – they are usually painless but can sometimes be sore and may bleed.

Although these symptons can be caused by conditions other than cancer, it’s important that they are always checked out by your doctor or dentist, particularly if they persist.