Oral cancer



What is oral cancer?

Oral cancer, or mouth cancer, is cancer that develops in tissue of the mouth. It can happens anywhere in your mouth: lips, tongue, cheek, gums, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and throat; but is more commonly occur on the mouth, tongue, and lips. Oral cancer often have little to no symptoms in its early stages. It is often found out when the cancer has spread to the neck and cause the lymph nodes to swell up; or found by your dentist.

How common is oral cancer?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of oral cancer?

The common symptoms of oral cancer are quite similar to other non-dangerous mouth problems. Thus, it can be hard to identify oral cancer by yourself. It is best to check with a dentist or doctor if you have the following symptoms:

  • Swellings/thickenings, lumps or bumps, rough spots/crusts/or eroded areas on the lips, gums, or other areas inside the mouth that do not heal within 2 weeks;
  • Unexplained bleeding from the mouth;
  • Unexplained numbness, loss of feeling, or pain/tenderness in any area of the lower lip, face, neck, or chin;
  • Loose teeth;
  • A soreness or feeling that something is caught in the back of the throat;
  • Pain or difficulty with swallowing;
  • Trouble wearing dentures;
  • Swelling in the neck;
  • Ear pain that won’t go away;
  • Dramatic weight loss;
  • Hoarseness, chronic sore throat, or change in voice.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes oral cancer?

Oral cancer develops because of a mutation of your DNA that allows the cells to grow uncontrollably.  These new cells are malfunction and over-crowd healthy cells. With time, they create a tumor in your mouth.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for oral cancer?

There are many risk factors for oral cancer, such as:

  • Using tobacco (smoking cigarette, cigars, pipes, or chewing tobacco);
  • Using alcohol;
  • HPV infection (a sexually transmitted virus);
  • Chronic facial sun exposure;
  • A previous diagnosis of oral cancer;
  • A family history of oral or other type of cancer.

It is important to note that over 25% of all oral cancers occur in people who do not smoke and who only drink alcohol occasionally.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is oral cancer diagnosed?

You doctor will first check the physical symptoms. This includes closely examining the roof and floor of your mouth, back of your throat, tongue, cheeks, and the lymph nodes in your neck. They will ask about your symptoms, such as does the sore feel painful or when the sore begins.

Some tests might be needed to confirm the diagnosis:

  • Imaging tests: x-ray, CT scan, MRI, endoscopy, or PET scan.
  • Biopsy: a sample of the tissue on the sore will be collected to be tested in the lab.

How is oral cancer treated?

Depending on your stage of cancer, you will have the appropriate treatment. In the early stages, treatment usually involve having surgery to remove the cancer tumor and lymph nodes that are affected.

If your cancer is advanced, you might need more aggressive treatment. These treatments can be used separately or as a combination.

  • Radiation therapy: using radiation to destroy the tumor cells.
  • Chemotherapy: using drugs via oral or IV method to get the drugs to the cancer cells. Targeted therapy: using drugs to prevent cancer cells to multiply.

These treatments can bring some side effects to you, including:

Radiation therapy

  • Sore throat or mouth;
  • Dry mouth;
  • Tooth decay;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Sore or bleeding gums;
  • Various infections;
  • Long-term healing after dental care;
  • Jaw stiffness and pain;
  • Problems wearing dentures;
  • Fatigue;
  • Change in your ability to taste and smell;
  • Changes in skin including dryness and burning;
  • Weight loss;
  • Thyroid changes.


  • Hair loss;
  • Painful mouth and gums;
  • Bleeding in the mouth;
  • Severe anemia;
  • Weakness;
  • Poor appetite;
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Mouth and lip sores;
  • Numbness in hands and feet.

Targeted therapies

  • Fever;
  • Headache;
  • Vomiting;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Allergic reaction.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage oral cancer?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with oral cancer:

  • Getting a healthy diet as instructed by your doctor.
  • Keep your mouth clean and moist during recovery.
  • Have ways to cope with the side effects of treatment, you can ask your doctor for coping methods if the side effects make you feel discomfort.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: July 25, 2017 | Last Modified: July 31, 2017

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