Oral, head and neck cancer awareness week is from April 12 – April 18th.  The Head and Neck Cancer Alliance has coordinated with hospitals and cancer centers throughout the United States to provide free screenings.  Their website provides a map of participating centers and educational information on symptoms and causes of oral cancer.  Oral, head and neck cancer is the 6th most common type of cancer in the United States.

WebMD outlines the following signs and symptoms of oral cancer which should be investigated further by your dentist or doctor: 

Unexplained bleeding in the mouth,

Persistent sores in the mouth that bleed easily and do not heal within two weeks,

Velvety white, red or speckled patches in the mouth,

Swelling, bumps and rough spots in the mouth or on the lips,

Unexplained numbness or discomfort in any part of the mouth,

Difficulty chewing, swallowing, talking or moving the jaw or tongue,

Soreness or feeling like something is caught in the back of your throat,

Dramatic weight loss,

Change in the way your teeth or dentures fit together.

Some of these symptoms have other more common causes like decay and gum disease.  Regular checkups with a dentist can help recognize unusual symptoms which may indicate oral cancer.  As with any cancer, early diagnosis and treatment is best.

The following sources contain more information on common signs and symptoms of oral cancer.

http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/oral-cancer

http://www.ohancaw.com/hanca-education/

http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org/facts/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/10332-spot-signs-oral-cancer/