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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Can an ulcer be a sign of oral cancer?

    I get mouth ulcers from time to time and although they are quite painful, they usually go away within a few days. However, I have had this ulcer for over ten days now. I'm worried it could be something more serious like cancer… what should I do?
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  • 1

    Thanks

    Dr Daniel Novakovic

    Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) Surgeon

    Dr Novakovic is an Australian Ear, Nose & Throat, Head & Neck surgeon with a special interest in voice and swallowing problems. He is subspecialty … View Profile

    The answer to your question in short is Yes - oral cancer can start as an ulcer.

    Before you get too concerned you should also know that most mouth ulcers are not cancer.

    As a specialist with an interest in oral cancer there are few things we assess. Firstly the risk factors are important - a young non-smoker, non-drinker is very unlikely to develop oral cancer compared with an older person who smokes and drinks alcohol. Oral cancer usually presents as a painless ulcer which grows slowly and doesn't improve. It also usually feels quite firm when pressed.

    The most common cause of a painless ulcer that has been there for 10 days is an aphthous ulcer. If things do not settle in the next week or so the first step would be to see a doctor for further advice and manegement which may include taking a biopsy of the ulcer to ensure that it is not malignant

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