Oral cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in any part of the mouth or lips. Most oral cancers start in the lining of the lips or mouth where you have thin, flat cells called squamous cells.
This type of cancer may also be called oral cavity cancer or oropharyngeal cancer.
Risk factors (things that increase your risk) for oral cancer include smoking (or using smokeless tobacco) and heavy alcohol use. Other risk factors are being male, using marijuana, or having human papillomavirus (HPV). For cancers of the lip, exposure over a long period of time to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or from tanning beds increases risk.
Symptoms for oral cancer include sores or lumps on the lips or in your mouth. Talk with your doctor if you have any of these signs:
A sore on your lip or in your mouth that bleeds easily and
does not heal
A lump or thickening on your lips, gums, cheek, or in your mouth
A white or red patch on your gums, your tongue, tonsils, or
the lining of your mouth
A sore throat or a feeling that something
is caught in your throat
Unexplained difficulty chewing,
swallowing, speaking, or moving your jaw or tongue
Numbness or pain in your tongue or
other areas of your lips or mouth
Swelling in your jaw that makes your
teeth loose or your dentures fit poorly
Changes in your voice
Dry mouth (xerostomia)
Your dentist or doctor may look closely at your lips, mouth, or throat to check for signs of oral cancer. Other tests may be needed if there are possible signs of cancer, such as a biopsy, an X-ray, or an MRI.
Oral cancer is usually treated with surgery and radiation therapy. Your treatment will depend on the stage of your cancer and your other health factors. If the cancer is advanced, other treatments may be used. You may get chemotherapy. Or chemotherapy and targeted therapy may be used together.
You can find more information about oral cancer at the National Cancer Institute website www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/oral.
Researchers are studying how people can make changes in their lifestyles to reduce their risk for cancer. One lifestyle change that may reduce the risk for oral cancer is eating more fruits and fiber-rich vegetables.
Hyperfractionated radiation therapy, which is giving the total dose of radiation therapy in many small treatments, often more than one a day.
Hyperthermia therapy, where body tissue is heated above normal temperatures. This kills cancer cells or makes them more sensitive to radiation or medicines.
Sometimes a clinical trial offers the best treatment choice. Your medical team will let you know if there is a clinical trial that might be good for you. For more information, see www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials or http://clinicaltrials.gov.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) conducts educational
programs and offers many services to people with cancer and to their families.
Staff at the toll-free number have information about services and activities
in local areas and can provide referrals to local ACS divisions.
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
6116 Executive Boulevard
Bethesda, MD 20892-8322
https://livehelp.cancer.gov/app/chat/chat_launch for live help
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is a U.S. government
agency that provides up-to-date information about the prevention, detection,
and treatment of cancer. NCI also offers supportive care to people who have cancer
and to their families. NCI information is also available to doctors, nurses,
and other health professionals. NCI provides the latest information about
clinical trials. The Cancer Information Service, a service of NCI, has trained
staff members available to answer questions and send free publications.
Spanish-speaking staff members are also available.
Chepeha DB, et al. (2011). Rehabilitation after treatment of head and neck cancer. In VT DeVita Jr. et al., eds., DeVita, Hellman and Rosenberg's Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology, 9th ed., pp. 781–788. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Lee N, et al. (2012). Benign and malignant lesions of the oral cavity, oropharynx and nasopharynx. In AK Lalwani, ed., Current Diagnosis and Treatment Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, 3rd ed., pp. 377–386. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Mendenhall WM, et al. (2011). Treatment of head and neck cancer. In VT DeVita Jr et al., eds., DeVita, Hellman and Rosenberg's Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology, 9th ed., pp. 729–780. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
National Cancer Institute (2012). Lip and Oral Cavity Cancer Treatment (PDQ)—Health Professional Version. Available online: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/lip-and-oral-cavity/HealthProfessional.
National Cancer Institute (2012). Lip and Oral Cavity Cancer Treatment (PDQ)—Patient Version. Available online: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/lip-and-oral-cavity/patient.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network (2012). Head and neck cancers. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology, version 1.2012. Available online: http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/PDF/head-and-neck.pdf.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.