Cancer - mouth; Mouth cancer; Head and neck cancer; Squamous cell cancer - mouthOverview
Oral cancer is cancer of the mouth.
Review Date: 2/1/2010
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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Oral cancer most commonly involves the tissue of the lips or the tongue. It may also occur on the:
Most oral cancers look very similar under the microscope and are called squamous cell
Smoking and other tobacco use are linked to 70 - 80% of oral cancer cases. Heavy alcohol use is also associated with an increased risk for oral cancer.
Other factors that may increase the risk for oral cancer include:
Some oral cancers begin as a white plaque (
Oral cancer accounts for about 5% of all cancerous growths. Men get oral cancer twice as often as women do, particularly men older than 40.
Sore, lump, or ulcer:
Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:
Oral cancer may be discovered when the dentist performs a routine cleaning and examination.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have a sore in your mouth or lip or a lump in the neck that does not go away within 1 month. Early diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer greatly increases the chances of survival.
Surgery to remove the tumor is usually recommended if the tumor is small enough. Surgery may be used together with
Rehabilitation may include speech therapy or other therapy to improve movement, chewing, swallowing, and speech.
Approximately half of people with oral cancer will live more than 5 years after they are diagnosed and treated. If the cancer is found early, before it has spread to other tissues, the cure rate is nearly 90%. However, more than half of oral cancers have already spread when the cancer is detected. Most have spread to the throat or neck.
Approximately 25% of people with oral cancer die because of delayed diagnosis and treatment.
Tests used to confirm the diagnosis of oral cancer include: