Cancer of the floor of mouth often looks like an ulcer and is painless. Sometimes people mistake this for a canker sore (aphthous ulcer). Often, by the time a patient sees a doctor for a diagnosis, the tumor has enlarged and grown into the neck.
Symptoms of floor of mouth cancer may include:
- A sore in the mouth that continues to grow larger
- Mouth pain
- Dentures that no longer fit
- White, red or dark patches inside the mouth
- Difficulty moving the jaw
- Jaw pain or swelling
- Mouth becomes numb
- Severe ear pain but the eardrum is normal
- Lumps in the neck
- Loose teeth or pain around the teeth
- Painless ulcer or lump
Causes and Risk Factors
Men are diagnosed with floor of mouth cancer three to four times more often than women.
The most significant risk factors for floor of mouth cancer are tobacco and alcohol use. Smokeless tobacco (including snuff and betel nut) is more of a risk for this cancer than cigarettes because the plug of tobacco is pressed again the skin in the mouth.
Other potential causes include people with certain infections or decreased immunity, such as:
- Exposure to the human papilloma virus (HPV), especially strains 16 and 18.
- Organ transplant recipients
- People with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease