Oral Cancer

What is oral cancer?

Oral cancer is a type of cancer that can develop in any part of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, cheeks, and throat. Oral cancer can be life-threatening if not detected and treated early, and may require surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy.


Who's at risk for oral cancer?

Risk factors for oral cancer can include:

  • Tobacco use, including smoking and chewing tobacco
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Family history of oral cancer
  • Age over 40


What causes oral cancer?

The exact cause of oral cancer is not well understood, but it is believed to be related to a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Tobacco use and heavy alcohol consumption are known to increase the risk of oral cancer, as are certain types of HPV infections.


How does oral cancer start?

Oral cancer can start with the development of abnormal cells in the mouth, which can grow and spread to other tissues if left untreated. Oral cancer may initially present with symptoms such as a sore or lump in the mouth that does not heal or go away over time.


What are the symptoms of oral cancer?

Symptoms of oral cancer can include:

  • A sore or lump in the mouth that does not heal or go away over time
  • Red or white patches on the gums, tongue, or other areas of the mouth
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Persistent sore throat or hoarseness
  • Pain or discomfort in the mouth or throat
  • Changes in the way teeth fit together


How is oral cancer diagnosed?

Diagnosis of oral cancer may involve a physical examination, medical history, and evaluation of symptoms. In some cases, additional testing such as imaging studies or a biopsy may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis.


How can oral cancer be treated?

Treatment of oral cancer may involve a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy. The specific treatment approach will depend on the location and stage of the cancer, as well as the individual's overall health and other factors.


What complications may occur with oral cancer?

Complications of oral cancer can include:

  • Difficulty with chewing, swallowing, and speaking
  • Impact on overall quality of life and well-being
  • Increased risk of recurrence or development of other cancers
  • Side effects of treatment, such as fatigue, pain, and changes in appearance or speech


How can I prevent oral cancer?

Prevention of oral cancer can include:

  • Avoidance of tobacco use, including smoking and chewing tobacco
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Regular dental checkups and cleanings
  • Practicing good oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing regularly
  • Protection from UV radiation, such as by wearing a hat and using lip balm with SPF


Long-term management of oral cancer

Long-term management of oral cancer may involve:

  • Regular follow-up with a healthcare provider to monitor symptoms and evaluate for recurrence
  • Continued use of medications or therapy as needed to manage symptoms and side effects of treatment
  • Support and resources for managing the emotional and physical impact of oral cancer


What is recent research saying about oral cancer?

Recent research on oral cancer has focused on improving understanding of the underlying causes and risk factors for the condition, as well as developing new treatment strategies. Some recent developments in oral cancer research include:

  • Investigation of the role of certain genetic markers in predicting the risk of oral cancer and response to treatment
  • Development of new immunotherapy and targeted therapy approaches to treat oral cancer


Where can I go for more information on oral cancer?

Resources for more information on oral cancer include the American Cancer Society, the Oral Cancer Foundation, and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. These organizations provide information on the causes, risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment of oral cancer, as well as support and resources for individuals and families affected by the condition. Additionally, consulting with a dental or medical professional can provide personalized recommendations for managing oral cancer and improving overall oral health.