Oral cancer

  • Alternative Names

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


    Surgery to remove the tumor is usually recommended if the tumor is small enough. Surgery may be used together with radiation therapy and chemotherapy for larger tumors. Surgery is not commonly done if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the neck.

    Other treatments may include speech therapy or other therapy to improve movement, chewing, swallowing, and speech.

    Support Groups

    You can ease the stress of illness by joining a support group of people who share common experiences and problems. See cancer - support group.

    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.

    About 1 in 4 persons with oral cancer die because of delayed diagnosis and treatment.

    • Complications of radiation therapy, including dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
    • Disfigurement of the face, head, and neck after surgery
    • Other spread (metastasis) of the cancer

    Calling your health care provider

    Oral cancer may be discovered when the dentist performs a routine cleaning and examination.

    Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have a sore in your mouth or lip or a lump in the neck that does not go away within 1 month. Early diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer greatly increases the chances of survival.