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.
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 Reference human papillomavirus (HPV) Opens New Window. For cancers of the lip, exposure over a long period of time to Reference ultraviolet (UV) light Opens New Window 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 to 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 Reference biopsy Opens New Window, an Reference X-ray Opens New Window, or an Reference MRI Opens New Window.
Oral cancer is usually treated with surgery and Reference radiation therapy Opens New Window. Your treatment will depend on the stage of your cancer and your other health factors. If the cancer is advanced, other treatments such as Reference chemotherapy Opens New Window may be used.
Additional information about oral cancer is provided by the National Cancer Institute at www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/oral.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference October 22, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Reference Arden Christen, DDS, MSD, MA, FACD - Dentistry