What Are the Basics of Mouth Cancer?

What is mouth cancer?

Mouth cancer, also called oral cancer or oral cavity cancer, refers to cancer that develops in any of the parts that make up the mouth, including:

  • Lips
  • Gums
  • Tongue
  • Tonsils
  • Pharynx (throat)
  • Salivary glands
  • Hard and soft palate
  • Inner lining of the cheeks
  • Roof of the mouth
  • Floor of the mouth

Mouth cancer is one of several types of cancer grouped into the category of head and neck cancers.

What are the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer?

Signs and symptoms of mouth cancer may include:

  • Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
  • Persistent sores on the face, neck, or mouth that bleed easily and do not heal within two weeks
  • A growth, lump or thickening of the skin or lining of the mouth
  • Loose teeth with no apparent reason
  • Poorly fitting dentures
  • Difficulty in chewing or swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue
  • Hoarseness, chronic sore throat, or change in voice
  • Patches on the lining of the mouth or tongue, usually velvety white, red, or speckled
  • Ear pain
  • Dramatic weight loss

If any of the above symptoms is noticed, please contact your dentist or health care professional immediately.

What are the causes of mouth cancer?

Mouth cancer typically starts in the squamous cells that line the lips and the inside of the mouth, which is called squamous cell carcinoma.

Risk factors for the development of mouth cancer include:

  • Smoking
  • Smokeless tobacco users
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Family history of cancer
  • Excessive ultraviolet exposure
  • Weakened immune system
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Prior radiation treatment or radiotherapy in the head, neck, or both
  • Exposure to certain chemicals, especially asbestos, sulfuric acid, and formaldehyde

How to diagnose mouth cancer?

Tests and procedures used to diagnose mouth cancer include:

  • Physical exam
  • A brush biopsy or a tissue biopsy
  • Endoscopy
  • Imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scan, PET scan and MRI scan

What are the treatment options for mouth cancer?

Treatment for mouth cancer depends on the location and stage of the cancer, as well as the overall health and personal preferences of the patients.

Treatment options include:

1. Surgery

  • remove the tumor
  • remove cancer that has spread to the neck
  • reconstruct the mouth

2. Radiation therapy

3. Chemotherapy

4. Targeted drug therapy

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.