Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is the cancer that starts in the oral cavity (mouth).  The oral cavity assists with breathing, talking, eating, chewing, and swallowing.  It contains several types of tissue and each of these tissues contains several types of cells.  Different cancers can develop from each kind of cell.

Most early signs of oral cancer are painless and are difficult to detect without a thorough head and neck examination by a dental or medical professional.  Associated risk factors of oral cancer include:

  • Use of tobacco

  • Use of alcohol

  • Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light

  • Chronic irritation to the lining of the mouth

  • Vitamin A deficiency

  • Age

  • Gender

Preventing high-risk behaviors that include cigarette, cigar or pipe smoking, use of smokeless tobacco, and excessive use of alcohol are critical in preventing oral cancers.


  • A doctor should be seen if any of the following symptoms occur:

  • A sore that bleeds easily and does not heal

  • A lump or thickening in the mouth, throat, or tongue

  • A red or white patch that persists

  • Difficulty in chewing, swallowing, or moving tongue or jaws

  • Voice changes

  • A lump or mass in the neck


Methods used to treat oral cancers include:

  • Surgery

  • Radiation therapy

  • Chemotherapy

These methods are disfiguring and costly.  Early detection is vital to increasing the survival rate of these cancers.

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