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What is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer is any cancerous tissue growth located in the oral cavity (mouth), on the lip, and the oropharynx (the part of the throat at the back of the mouth).

Oral cancer is any cancerous tissue growth located in the oral cavity (mouth), on the lip, and the oropharynx (the part of the throat at the back of the mouth).

Oral cancer most commonly involves:

  • The tongue, which accounts for 20-25% of cases;
  • Floor of the mouth, 15%; the lip, 10-15%;
  • Minor salivary glands, 10-15%

Most oral cancers look very similar under the microscope and are called “squamous cell” carcinomas. These are malignant and tend to spread rapidly.

Oral cancer frequently has no symptoms; however, when symptoms do occur, the most common include:

  • A sore or ulcer on the lip or in the mouth that does not heal
  • A lump on the lip, or in the mouth, or in the neck
  • A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, or lining of the mouth
  • Unusual bleeding, pain, or numbness in the mouth
  • Oral pain that does not go away
  • Difficulty or pain with chewing, swallowing or jaw opening
  • Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable
  • Tooth loosening
  • Bad breath
  • Sensory loss in the face
  • Abnormal taste in the mouth
  • Tongue problems

If you have any concerns or have any of these symptoms, check with your dentist or healthcare practitioner immediately. 

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