Cancer is a disease of the cells of the body. Human body is made up from millions of tiny cells. There are many different types of cell in the body, and there are many different types of cancer which arise from different types of cell. What all types of cancer have in common is that the cancer cells are abnormal and multiply vigorously. Oral cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in any part of the lips, tongue, cheeks and throat. Most oral cancers start in the lining of the lips or mouth where you have thin, flat cells called squamous cells.
Factors that increase risk for oral cancer include, but not limited to, smoking and heavy alcohol use. Risk is multiplied if a person uses both smoking and alcohol. Other risk factors are being male, using marijuana, or having human papillomavirus (HPV). Oral cancer occurs more than twice as often in men as in women.
Symptoms for oral cancer include sores or lumps on the lips or in your mouth. Talk with your doctor if you have any of these signs:
- Leukoplakia or erythroplakia
- Sore on your lip or in your mouth that bleeds easily and does not heal
- Lump or thickening on your lips, gums, cheek, or in your mouth
- White or red patch on your gums, your tongue, tonsils, or the lining of your mouth
- Sore throat or a feeling that something is caught in your throat
- Unexplained difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your jaw or tongue
- Numbness or pain in your tongue or other areas of your lips or mouth
- Swelling in your jaw that makes your teeth loose or your dentures fit poorly
- Changes in your voice
- Dry mouth (Xerostomia)
Your dentist or doctor may look closely at your lips, mouth, or throat to check for signs of oral cancer. Other tests may be needed if there are possible signs of cancer, such as a biopsy, an X-ray, or an MRI.
Oral cancer is usually treated with surgery and radiation therapy. Your treatment will depend on the stage of your cancer and your other health factors. If the cancer is advanced, other treatments may be used. You may get chemotherapy. Or chemotherapy and targeted therapy may be used together.