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What Are the Symptoms of Gum Cancer?

A woman with healthy gums.
Quitting smoking may help reduce the risk of gum cancer.
A scalpel biopsy may be performed if a person exhibits the symptoms of gum cancer.
Chewing tobacco, which can cause gum cancer.
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  • Written By: J.L. Drede
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2014
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There are many different symptoms of gum cancer. Most of the symptoms involve the gums directly. There are other symptoms, however, that affect a person's neck, throat, or even ears. One of the most obvious symptoms of gum cancer, or any other oral cancer for that matter, is a swelling of the gums, lips, and surrounding areas of the mouth. This may be a generalized swelling, or it may also include lumps and bumps in certain areas. Crusty spots and eroded areas in the mouth may also accompany the swelling.

Many people with oral cancer, including cancer of the gums, also experience some bleeding in the mouth. This bleeding may be accompanied by white and red patches in the mouth. Soreness or a feeling that something is stuck in the mouth are also common symptoms.

In addition to pain, symptoms of gum cancer can also include a general feeling of numbness across the gums, face, and even neck. This can make it difficult to chew and swallow or even speak. Sometimes this is accompanied by a sore throat or change in voice that can also make it difficult to speak.

Gingival cancer can also cause severe headaches and earaches, sometimes resulting in dizziness or nausea. These symptoms, combined with the pain caused by the other symptoms, can lead to dramatic weight loss because they make it nearly impossible to eat.

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While anyone can get any form of oral cancer, it is far more common in men than women. According to the American Cancer Society, men are at twice the risk as women. The risk of oral cancer increases with age as well; it is more common in people older than age 50 than with younger individuals.

Smoking is a major risk factor that can contribute to gum cancer as well as other oral cancers. An even bigger risk factor than smoking is smokeless tobacco. People who use chewing tobacco, dip, and snuff are 50 times more likely to develop an oral cancer than those who do not. Excessive drinking is also a risk factor that can increase a person's chances of getting an oral cancer.

If a person exhibits the symptoms of gum cancer, then a dentist will usually perform an oral brush biopsy. In some cases a scalpel biopsy, which actually removes some tissue from the mouth, may also be performed. Once cancer is detected, chemotherapy and other cancer treatments will usually begin. The one-year survival rate for cancer of the gums is usually about 81 percent, while it goes down to 56 percent after five years and 46 percent after 10 years.

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fBoyle
Post 3

No one can diagnose gum cancer based on symptoms, because it could be one of many different oral conditions. A biopsy is the only way to know. For example, swollen gums and tongue can be signs of cancer or infection.

And just to clear it up, people who have never smoked in their lives can get cancer too. And some viruses, like the HPV virus can cause gum and oral cancer too.

SarahGen
Post 2

@feruze-- Gums can become a bright red, or white when there is cancer.

I don't know if darker colored gums is a sign of cancer. It might just be the tobacco staining your dad's gums. People who smoke and use tobacco are at a much higher risk of oral cancer though, so it's always a good idea to get checked out.

When my wife was diagnosed with mouth cancer, she had white patches on her gums and her gums and throat were also swollen. It had become difficult for her to swallow and eat.

bear78
Post 1

Is darkening of the gums a gum cancer symptom?

My dad has been chewing tobacco for years and recently, he told me that his gums look darker and different. I'm getting an appointment with the doctor for him. I'm scared that he has cancer.

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