Oral cancer can occur on the lips, tongue, gums, or other tissues inside of the mouth. It most commonly occurs on the lower lip. Oral cancer is more common in people over the age of 40 years old. It occurs more frequently in men than in women. People who smoke cigarettes, pipes, or cigars or chew tobacco have the highest risk for oral cancer. People that use tobacco and heavily consume alcohol have even a greater risk.
Signs of oral cancer include a sore or irritation that does not heal or go away. Early oral cancer may not cause pain and may not be noticed. You can reduce your chances of developing oral cancer by avoiding tobacco and alcohol products. Oral cancer has a fair prognosis. It is treated with surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
You may or may not notice the early signs of oral cancer. It usually does not cause pain in the early stages. Oral cancer may begin as a white or red patch on your gums, tongue, inside of your cheek, or inside or outside of your lips. It may look like a sore or irritation that does not heal or go away. The affected area may bleed easily. Oral cancer can also begin as a lump, thick area, or crusty area. It can cause part of your mouth to feel numb.
You may experience difficulty swallowing food or moving your tongue. It may feel like something is caught in your throat. Your voice may change or sound hoarse. Your bite pattern may change. You may have difficulty bringing your jaws together or chewing food. Swelling may cause your dentures to not fit properly.
Your dentist or doctor can diagnose oral cancer by reviewing your medical history, examining your mouth, and taking some tests. You should tell your doctor about your risk factors and symptoms. A small bit of tissue from a suspected area may be taken for examination in a laboratory.
You may be referred to a specialist for treatment of oral cancer. The type of treatment you receive depends on the location and extent of your cancer. Oral cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (metastasized) will need treatment also. Oral cancer is treated with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of treatments. Cosmetic surgery can help to maintain your facial appearance after surgery.