Warning Signs and Early Detecting Oral, Head, and Neck Cancers | Max Hospital

Crucial Clues: Recognizing Warning Signs of Oral, Head, and Neck Cancers

By Dr. Sowrabh Kumar Arora in Cancer Care / Oncology , Head & Neck Oncology

Apr 25 , 2024 | 2 min read

Oral, head, and neck cancers can manifest in various forms, often with subtle warning signs that, if caught early, can significantly improve prognosis. Understanding these signs is crucial for timely diagnosis and treatment. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the warning signs of these cancers, presented lucidly for easy understanding.

What are Oral, Head, and Neck Cancers?

Before we explore the warning signs, it's important to understand what these cancers entail. Oral, head and neck cancers include those affecting the mouth, throat, nose, sinuses, and salivary glands. They can arise in the mucosal surfaces of these areas and are often grouped together due to shared risk factors and treatment approaches.

Warning Signs

  1. Oral Cavity:
  • Persistent Mouth Sores: Sores that don't heal in two weeks may be an early indicator.
  • Pain: Unexplained pain or discomfort in the mouth or throat.
  • Red or White Patches: These patches may appear on the tongue, tonsils, or lining of the mouth.
  • Burning sensation while eating, a progressive decrease in mouth opening.
  • Pain in the ear while chewing or swallowing
  1. Lips:
  • Changes in Lip Color: Particularly if one part of the lip is different in colour from the rest.
  • Swelling or Thickening: Noticeable changes in the texture or size of the lips.
  1. Tongue:
  • Red or White Patches: Similar to those in the oral cavity, on the tongue's surface.
  • Difficulty Swallowing: Especially if it persists or worsens over time.
  • Changes in voice due to tongue tethering or immobility.


  • Loosening and falling off, bleeding from gums.
  1. Throat:
  • Persistent Sore Throat: Particularly one that does not improve with time or treatment.
  • Hoarseness: Unexplained hoarseness or changes in voice quality.
  • Foreign body sensation in the throat (feeling of something stuck in the throat).
  1. Neck:

   - Lumps or Enlarged Lymph Nodes: Swollen lymph nodes that do not go away within a few weeks.

   - Enlarged thyroid gland or salivary gland.

  1. Head:
  • Persistent Headaches: Especially if they are accompanied by other symptoms.
  • Unexplained Facial Pain: Particularly if it does not go away with usual treatments.
  • Numbness or Weakness: Particularly on one side of the face.
  • Difficulty in breathing from the nose
  • Swelling in front of the ear
  • Bleeding from the ear

Read more - Oral Cancer: All You Need to Know

Recognizing the warning signs of oral cancer, head, and neck cancers is vital for early detection and improved outcomes. If you notice persistent symptoms lasting more than two weeks, seek medical attention promptly. Regular check-ups (especially for those with risk factors like smoking and alcohol consumption) can lead to early detection and better treatment options.

By staying informed and vigilant, we can play an active role in our own health. Remember, early detection saves lives.