Management of Oral Cancer


Oral cancer is cancer that develops in the tissues of the mouth or throat. It belongs to a larger group of cancers called head and neck cancers. Most develop in the squamous cells found in your mouth, tongue, and lips.

Types of oral cancers

Oral cancers include cancers of the:

  • lips
  • tongue
  • inner lining of the cheek
  • gums
  • floor of the mouth
  • hard and soft palate

When to see a dentist

Your dentist is often the first healthcare provider to notice signs of oral cancer. Getting biannual dental checkups can keep your dentist up to date on the health of your mouth.

Risk factors for developing oral cancer

One of the biggest risk factors for oral cancer is tobacco use. This includes smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, as well as chewing tobacco.

People who consume large amounts of alcohol and tobacco are at an even greater risk, especially when both products are used on a regular basis.

Other risk factors include:

  • human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • chronic facial sun exposure
  • a previous diagnosis of oral cancer
  • a family history of oral or other types of cancer
  • a weakened immune system
  • poor nutrition
  • genetic syndromes
  • being male

What are symptoms of oral cancer?

Symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • a sore on your lip or mouth that won’t heal
  • a mass or growth anywhere in your mouth
  • bleeding from your mouth
  • loose teeth
  • pain or difficulty swallowing
  • trouble wearing dentures
  • a lump in your neck
  • an earache that won’t go away
  • dramatic weight loss
  • lower lip, face, neck, or chin numbness
  • white, red and white, or red patches in or on your mouth or lips
  • a sore throat
  • jaw pain or stiffness
  • tongue pain

Some of these symptoms, such as a sore throat or an earache, may indicate other conditions. However, if you notice any of these symptoms, especially if they don’t go away or you have more than one at a time, visit your dentist or doctor as soon as possible.