Symptoms of Ulcers

Mouth or Throat Ulcers, Cancer of the mouth and throat

Ulcers in the mouth or throat may be caused by local trauma, infections, immune disorders or cancer. Cancer of the mouth and throat is not common compared to other cancers (such as bowel, breast, lung, or prostate cancer) but it is crucial to detect such cancers early, not only to improve the chance of curing the cancer, but also to reduce the functional effects of the cancer and its treatment on a person’s speech, voice, swallowing and breathing.  

Cancer of the mouth and throat are more common in people who smoke cigarettes and/or drink alcohol. However, throat cancer may also affect people who neither drink nor smoke, because another cause of throat cancer (and the most common cause at present) is infection with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).

An ulcer in the mouth or throat that is present for more than two weeks must be assessed by a Head & Neck Surgeon as soon as possible.

How do we evaluate ulcers in the mouth and/or throat?

People with ulcers in the mouth and/or throat are evaluated by taking a thorough medical history and by performing an examination of the neck and the upper airway, including endoscopy. The mouth and throat are examined through the mouth, and then standard endoscopy of the upper airway (called laryngoscopy) is undertaken. This procedure involves the passage of an endoscope (a slim tube with a camera on the end) through the noseusing local anaesthetic to examine the airway.

A biopsy (a sample of tissue) of the ulcer is taken. This may be performed in the office using local anaesthetic, however in some cases this biopsy is performed under general anaesthetic in the operating room.

Additional investigations such as CT scanning, MRI scanning and/or PET-CT scanning may be required to complete the evaluation.

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