Gum Cancer Symptoms

 What are some of the gum cancer symptoms?

Gum cancer symptoms are very similar to those of other types of oral cancers, as well as to those of many other types of health problems. This often leads to delayed diagnosis and treatment because the patient may associate any of the following symptoms with less serious health conditions. Some of the known gum cancer symptoms include:

  • Gum pain
  • Swelling of the gums
  • Mass or lump in the gums
  • Ulcers in the gums
  • Unexplainable bleeding in the gum area
  • Red or white sores or lesions on the gums

I have some of these gum cancer symptoms? What should I do now?

If you exhibit any of the above gum cancer symptoms, or have any other unusual changes on your gums, you should go to the dentist or doctor for an exam. During this exam the dentist or doctor will first visually inspect your gums, as well as other parts of your mouth and throat, for lumps, sores, lesions and other common gum cancer symptoms. If the dentist or doctor finds any area or areas of concern he or she will then perform more tests to determine if the abnormal tissue is potentially cancerous. Some of the common tests for possible gum cancer include:

  • Toluidine Blue Staining– Lesions or sores in the mouth are first covered in a blue dye. The areas that stain a darker blue are more at risk to be cancer or develop into cancer.
  • Fluorescence staining– A patient first uses fluorescent mouth rinse. Then the mouth is viewed by the dentist or doctor using a special light that shows a variation in normal versus abnormal tissue.
  • Exfoliative cytology– Cells are gently scraped of the gums using cotton, a brush or a wooden stick and then viewed under a microscope to determine if they are abnormal
  • Brush biopsy– A special brush is used to collect cells from all the layers of a potentially cancerous spot which are then viewed under a microscope to determine if they are abnormal

The Mayo Clinic recommends a few things for you to prepare for before you go to your appointment with the dentist or doctor. These include:

  1. Check with the medical staff at the doctor’s office or clinic and make sure you are aware of any pre-appointment restrictions or anything you need to do in advance
  2. Think through and write down any symptoms you may have experienced. This will help you not forget or leave anything out when you are talking with the doctor.
  3. Write down any important personal information, such as recent life changes or stresses that may have impacted your recent health
  4. Make a list of all medication and vitamins you are currently taking
  5. Find a family member or friend to take along with you. This person will not only be a support for you, but they may help you think of things you forgot to tell the doctor and help you remember what all he or she tell you during the appointment.
  6. Prepare a list of questions for your doctor in advance. Here are some questions Mayo Clinic recommends:
  • What is causing my symptoms? What are some other possible causes?
  • What tests do I need to diagnose my condition?
  • What do you recommend as the best course of action? What are some alternative approaches?
  • How do I manage this new condition with my other health conditions?
  • Are their any restrictions I need to adhere to?
  • Should I get a second opinion or see a specialist? What will this cost and will my insurance cover it?
  • What are the costs of the medicines you are prescribing me? Will my insurance cover them? Are their generic alternatives?
  • Where do you recommend I go to learn more about gum cancer?
  • When should I plan for a follow-up visit?

This is not a comprehensive list, but just some suggestions to help you get started. The more questions you can think to ask and the more you plan ahead the more knowledgeable you will be about your new diagnosis and the best ways to treat it.

Want more information on gum cancer and gum cancer symptoms?

Visit our other pages focused on gum cancer or go to our Gum Cancer Resources page for links to other sites with articles, research and studies on gum cancer.


Gum Cancer – Overview, Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment Methods. Accessed January 17, 2012

Mouth Cancer. Accessed January 16, 2012

Oral Cancer Screening (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. Accessed January 5, 2012.

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