What is Oral Cancer?

Overview of oral cancer.

Oral Cancer Mouth Throat Locations

The website of the National Cancer Institute

Oral Cancer Mouth Locations

The website of the National Cancer Institute

Oral cancer starts in the mouth (in areas like the gums, tongue cheeks, roof or floor of the mouth) or in part of the throat (like the larynx of pharynx). Abnormal cells often form tumors in the mouth or throat areas. Tumors in the mouth are often classified three different ways:

  1. Benign, non-cancerous tumors do not spread to other tissues. They have various causes, are often surgically removed, rarely life threatening and seldom grow back.
  2. Precancerous tumors start out non cancerous but show potential becoming cancerous. Tests are often performed on them by a doctor to determine their likelihood of developing into cancer.
  3. Cancerous tumors grow and can spread to other parts of the body. This is the most serious type and often require surgery and treatment to eliminate the bad cells.

Tumors spread when the cancerous cells break away from the original tumor and enter blood vessels, which go to all the tissues in the body. The first place cancers of the mouth usually spread to is the nearest lymph nodes in the neck where they may grow to form new tumors.

Oral Cancer Symptoms

White patch on the floor of the mouth of a smoker from The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research Web site (www.nidcr.nih.gov)

How many people are diagnosed with oral cancer each year?

Approximately 39,400 individuals were diagnosed in 2011. About 70% (or 27,710) of those were men and almost 30% ( or 11,690) were women. Of all the 2011 oral cancer diagnoses almost 31% of them were on the tongue, 29% were in the mouth and 34% were in the pharynx (throat) area. The number of diagnosed cases has been decreasing over the years, but there has been a rise in the number of cases related to a human papilloma virus (HPV) infection.

Who is at risk for oral cancer?

Technically anyone is at risk, but it is found about two times more often in men than in women and the average age of diagnosis is 62.

Visit our page on the Causes of Oral Cancer for more information on the known risk factors and causes.

What are the Oral Cancer Survival Rates?

The one year survival rate for all stages of oral cancer is about 81%. This means approximately 81% of people diagnosed are still living within one year of their diagnosis. This survival rate decreases over a period of 5 and 10 years. The 5 year survival rate is 61% and the 10 year survival rate is 51%. These statistics from the American Cancer Society show that almost half of the people diagnosed will die from it within ten years! In 2011 about 20% of the people diagnosed with oral cancer died from the disease. The majority of related deaths (30.75%) were from cancer that began in the pharynx (throat) area, followed by cancer of the tongue (25.69%) and mouth (22.65%).

Links to More Information

These statistics show that prevention and early detection are key. Know how to prevent oral cancer, what the risk factors are and what to look for if you develop symptoms. The links below can help.

Want to see more images of oral cancer?

Visit our Oral Cancer Pictures page.

Want more oral cancer information?

See our Oral Cancer Resources page for additional links to tons of additional oral cancer information.

Oral cancer and mouth cancer are often used by doctors and scientists to describe the same thing. On this site we have broken oral cancer down into the specific locations the cancer can occur, thus differentiating the mouth (and the gums, tongue and throat) as one location oral cancer can occur. However, because the oral cavity and mouth are often considered the same things we recommend that you visit our mouth cancer page for more information and additional links to oral cancer information.

Mouth CancerĀ 

Oral Cancer References

Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/OralCavityandOropharyngealCancer/DetailedGuide/index. Accessed January 4, 2012.

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    All content on this site is for general information purposes only. It is not and should not be considered medical advice or used in place of the advice of a medical professional. Always seek the advice of a doctor or other professional for any medical condition.