Oral Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Stages, Survival Rate, Prevention

A cancer developing in the tissues of the mouth or throat is known to be oral cancer. Oral cancer is also known as mouth cancer. This current article will revolve on this particular group of cancer. Here we will talk about the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatments and also some preventive measures of oral cancer.

Oral Cancer

Overview on Oral Cancer:

The uncontrollable growth of cells that invade and cause damage to the surrounding tissue is known as cancer. Oral cancer is a cancer that develops in the tissues of mouth or the throat. Most of the oral cancer develops in the squamous cells present in the mouth, tongue, and lips. Usually oral cancers are most often discovered after they have spread to the lymph nodes of the neck. It is essential to have early detection so as to survive oral cancer.

We will talk about the symptoms, causes, treatments in the following arrays of the article. But prior to that, let us know about the stages of oral cancer in the below section.

Stages & Survival Rate of Oral Cancer:

Oral cancer has 4 stages. The stage 1 and stage 2 of oral cancer involve small tumor. In these two stages, cancer cells have not spread to the lymph nodes. However, stage 3 and stage 4 are considered as advanced stages of the oral cancer where tumors are large and the cancer cells have usually spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

It is noted that the survival rate after 1 year of all stages of oral cancer is 81%. After 5 years of the oral cancer, the survival rate is 56% and it is 41% after 10 years of the oral cancer. Earlier diagnosis at an early stage makes it very much possible for best of the treatment and gets a higher chance of survival after the treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer:

Here below we will take a look on the signs and symptoms of oral cancer.

  • Swelling or thickening or lumps, bumps etc in the tongue, lip or any other mouth areas can be a sign of oral cancer.
  • Development of velvety red, white or white and red patches in the mouth areas
  • Unexplained bleeding from the mouth can also be a symptom of oral cancer
  • Loss of feeling, numbness, etc. in the mouth area or any other portion of the face, neck etc.
  • Soreness or a kind of feeling that something is caught in the back of the throat.
  • Difficulty while chewing or swallowing, speaking or even moving the tongue or the jaw can be a sign of oral cancer
  • Hoarseness, severe sore throat or change in voice.
  • Persistent sores on the face, neck or mouth that bleed easily and do not heal within couple of weeks
  • A change in the way the teeth or dentures fit together
  • Ear pain can be also a symptom
  • Dramatic weight loss can also be a symptom of oral cancer that requires immediate medical attention.

Causes of Oral Cancer:

Here below we have listed down some of the causes of oral cancer.

  • Smoking cigarette, cigar, etc causes oral cancer. It is noted that smokers are 6 times more likely to get encountered with oral cancers than the non-smokers.
  • Chewing tobacco products, bettle nuts etc. can also develop the risk of causing oral cancers in the cheeks, lining of the lips, gums etc.
  • Consuming excessive amount of alcohol can also cause oral cancers. It is noted that drinkers are 6 times more likely to catch oral cancers as compared to the non-drinkers.
  • There are chances that an individual with family history of cancer may develop oral cancer.
  • Excessive sun exposure, especially at a young age can also cause cancer.

Diagnosis for Oral Cancer:

Diagnosis for oral cancer includes the following.

  • Oral Cancer Screening Examination: Your dentist will get to know about any lumps or irregular tissue changes in your head, face, neck and oral cavity. While examining your mouth, he or she will look for any discoloured tissue or sores and also check for the signs and symptoms of oral cancer.
  • Oral Brush Biopsy: If your dentist finds any suspicious tissue in mouth then he or she may go for oral brush biopsy. This test is painless. It involves taking a small tissue sample and analyzing it for abnormal cells.
  • Scalpel Biopsy: In case the suspicious tissue after oral brush biopsy looks more suspicious, your dentist may go for a scalpel biopsy which requires local anesthesia. The test would detect oral cancer at an early stage before it could have had a chance to spread.

Apart from all the above mentioned tests, your dentist may also recommend you to undergo the following diagnosis procedures.

  1. X-rays: So as to see if cancer cells have spread to the jaw, chest or the lungs.
  2. CT Scan: This is done to reveal any tumor in the mouth, throat, neck, lungs or anywhere else in the body.
  3. PET Scan: This is done to determine if the cancer has travelled to the lymph nodes or other organs.
  4. MRI Scan: This shows a more accurate image of the head and neck and thus dentist can determine the extent or the stage of the cancer with an MRI scan.
  5. Endoscopy: This is done to examine the nasal passages, inner throat, sinuses, windpipe and trachea.

Treatments for Oral Cancer:

Here, in this section we will talk about treatments for oral cancer.

Surgical Treatments for Oral Cancer:

Surgery is one of the effective modes of treating oral cancer. Surgery is usually followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Macilllectomy, Mandibulectomy, Glossectomy, Radical neck dissection, Mohs surgery or CCPDMA, etc. are some of the major forms of surgeries done for oral cancer.

Surgery for larger cancer is technically demanding. Reconstructive surgery may be required in oral cancer treatments, so as to give an acceptable cosmetic as well as functional result.

Radiation Therapy for Oral Cancer:

Radiation therapy is one more option for treating oral cancers. This treatment procedure involves the doctor aiming radiation beams at the tumor once or twice a day, 5 days a week; for about 2-8 weeks. It must be noted that treatments for advanced stages of oral cancer would require involving a combination of chemotherapy and the radiation therapy. It must be noted that radiation therapy may have some side effects which may include, sore throat, tooth decay, bleeding from gums, nausea, vomiting, jaw stiffness and pain, fatigue, skin and mouth infection, weight loss, thyroid changes etc.

Chemotherapy for Oral Cancer:

Chemotherapy for oral cancer is very useful when combined with the radiation therapy. It must be noted that chemotherapy is not used as a monotherapy alone.

However, there are also some side effects of chemotherapy too which may include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, loss of hair, poor appetite, painful mouth and gums, severe anaemia etc.

Targeted Therapy for Oral Cancer:

Targeted therapy is one more form of treatment for oral cancer. It can be proved effective in both, early stages as well as advanced stages of the oral cancer. Targeted therapy drugs actually bind to specific proteins on cancer cells and interfere with their growth.

Importance of Diet in Oral Cancer Treatment:

Nutrition is highly essential and plays a major part in the oral cancer treatment. Many treatments in the patients make it difficult to eat or swallow and poor appetite, weight loss etc are common. It is essential for you to discuss about your diet with the doctor. A nutritionist can advice you at the best. You can know about the best foods that would be gentle on your mouth and throat and will provide your body with calories, minerals and vitamins which are needed for quick recovery and healthy life.

Prevention Against Oral Cancer:

Below are some of the preventive measures for oral cancer:

  • Do not smoke or use tobacco products.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you take
  • Eat a well balanced diet
  • Repeated exposure to sun can cause cancer on lip. So, try and limit your sun exposure whenever possible.
  • Conduct a self examination, at least once in a month where you examine your lips, gums, roof of the mouth, back gums, floor of the mouth, back of the throat etc. for any signs and symptoms of oral cancer
  • See your dentist on a regular schedule.


It is essential to keep a good oral hygiene and get self mouth checked with a dentist, at least once in 3 years. In case you experience any such symptoms of oral cancer, do visit an expert medical professional and take the best of his or her advices and follow up treatments. Make sure you are keeping your mouth healthy during oral cancer treatments.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 4, 2022

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