Oral cancer

Alternative Names

Cancer – mouth; Mouth cancer; Head and neck cancer; Squamous cell cancer – mouth

Definition of Oral cancer

Oral cancer is cancer of the mouth.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Oral cancer most commonly involves the tissue of the lips or the tongue. It may also occur on the:


Sore, lump, or ulcer:

Signs and tests

Signs include:


Surgery to remove the tumor is usually recommended if the tumor is small enough. Surgery may be used together with and chemotherapy for larger tumors. These treatments are more comon if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the neck.

Expectations (prognosis)

Approximately half of people with oral cancer will live more than 5 years after they are diagnosed and treated. If the cancer is found early, before it has spread to other tissues, the cure rate is nearly 90%. However, more than half of oral cancers have already spread when the cancer is detected. Most have spread to the throat or neck.


David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 2/1/2010

Throat anatomy
Mouth anatomy

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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