Oral cancer is a type of cancer which occurs in the mouth. Oral cancer, also known as mouth cancer is the growth of any cancerous tissue in the oral cavity. It can originate either in any of the oral tissues, or by metastasis from any nearby cancer affected organ or by extension from any neighboring organ, like the nasal cavity. Oral cancer may even start off its growth in any of the tissues of the mouth. Most commonly, oral cancer involves the tongue or the lips. It may also happen in the cheek lining, gums, floor of the mouth and/ or roof of the mouth. There are various kinds of mouth cancers and almost 90% of these are squamous cell carcinomas, which have their origin in the tissues which line the lips and the mouth.

Oral cancer often begins as a white plaque (leukoplakia) or as mouth ulcers. Smoking and the use of other tobacco products are known to increase the chances of a person getting mouth cancer. Heavy alcohol consumption also increases the risk for mouth cancer. Other factors which may increase the risks of mouth cancer include: poor oral and dental hygiene, HPV (human papilloma virus) infection, chronic irritation due to dentures, fillings or tough teeth, taking any medications which weaken the body’s immune system, etc. Men, particularly over 40 years of age, are more likely to be affected by mouth cancer in comparison to women.

The symptoms of mouth cancer are lumps, sores or ulcers in the mouth which are often pale colored, but may be dark or discolored. They may appear as a deep, hard-edged crack in the tissue. These symptoms appear on the lip, tongue or other areas of the mouth. They are usually painless in the starting, but they may develop some pain or burning sensations as the tumor advances. Other symptoms of oral cancer are: problem in chewing, difficulty in speaking, difficulty and pain while swallowing, mouth sores, tongue problems, swollen lymph nodes and weight loss.

The diagnosis of oral cancer can be done by two tests: gum biopsy and tongue biopsy. The doctor can also conduct a physical examination of the patient for the diagnosis. The physical examination can reveal any ulcers, bleeding or sores on the tongue, lip or any other part of the mouth. CT scans and X-rays can be done to find out if the cancer has spread to the surrounding organs. For the treatment of oral cancer, surgery is recommended if the tumor is small. Surgery can be used in combination with chemotherapy and radiation therapy for bigger tumors.