Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is cancer of the mouth,head, and neck. It most commonly involves the tissue of the lips or tongue. It may also occur on the floor of mouth, roof of mouth, gums, and the cheek lining. Most look very similar under a microscope and are called squamous cell carcinomas. These are cancerous and spread very quickly.

Smoking and other tobacco product use are the cause of 70-80 percent of oral cancers. Heavy alcohol use could also increase the risk for oral cancer. Other factors include chronic irritation, human papilloma virus, and poor dental and oral hygiene. Some oral cancers begin as a white plaque or as a mouth ulcer.

Visual symptoms include a sore, lump, or ulcer. Other symptoms include chewing problems, pain with swallowing, abnormal taste in mouth and speech difficulties.

Tests used to confirm the diagnosis inlude a biopsy and microscopic examination of the area.

Treatment is usually a sugery to remove the tumor. Surgery combined with radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be necessary for larger tumors or if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck.

Approximately half of people diagnosed will live more than 5 years after being diagnosed. If found early, before it has spread to other tissues the cure rate is nearly 90%.  Unfortunately 25% of people with oral cancer die because of delayed diagnosis and treatment.