Oral Cancer

Definition of oral cancer: Cancer that forms in tissues of the oral cavity (the mouth) or the oropharynx.

Over 90% of malignant tumors of the mouth are what we call Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), which arise on the mucosal epithelium. In the second level Adenocarcinoma of the minor salivary glands.

Oral cancer most commonly involves the lips or the tongue. It may also occur on the:

  • Cheek lining
  • Floor of the mouth
  • Gums (gingiva)
  • Roof of the mouth (palate)

Age and gender

Cancers of the oral cavity and oropharynx usually take many years to develop, so they are not common in young people.

It is considerable more common in male than female.

Most common risk factors:

  • Smoking tobacco products
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Use of a quid (sweeka)
  • Human papilloma virus infection (HPV)
  • Ultraviolet (UV) light for lip cancer.
  • Poor oral hygiene

Human papilloma virus (HPV) is a group of more than 150 types of viruses. They are called papilloma viruses because some of them cause a type of growth called a papilloma.

Signs and symptoms:

  • A sore in the mouth that does not heal.
  • Pain in the mouth that doesn’t go away.
  • A lump or thickening in the cheek or neck.
  • A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth
  • A sore throat or a feeling that something is caught in the throat that doesn’t go away
  • Trouble chewing or swallowing
  • Trouble moving the jaw or tongue
  • Numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth
  • Voice changes


  • Avoid smoking and alcohol.
  • Avoid HPV infection.
  • Limit exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.
  • Eat healthy diet.
  • Regular checkup.

Early detection: 

Cancers of the oral cavity can be found early, during routine screening exams by the dentist (regular visit every 6 month) and by oral self-examination using a mirror.