In efforts to raise awareness about oral cancer, we’ve put together a blog with basic need-to-know information about oral cancer. Oral cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that includes any cancerous lesion located in the oral cavity. Oral cancer most commonly involves the tongue but it may also occur on the floor of the mouth, roof of the mouth, gums, cheek lining, or lips.


Oral Cancer Facts and Statistics

In 2014, there were approximately 42,440 new cases of oral cancer in the United States. Roughly 8,390 people died from oral cancer in 2014. The death rate for oral cancer has historically been high (currently, only about 63% of patients survive 5 years from diagnosis) because it is in it’s development.

Oral cancer can manifest and spread without producing pain and other symptoms may not be noticed by patients. This means there is a high risk of it spreading before patients seek evaluation. Often once oral cancer is discovered, it has already metastasized to another location (typically the lymph nodes of the neck). Once it has metastasized, the prognosis is significantly worse.


Oral Cancer Symptoms:

  • Swelling, lumps, scabs or other eroded areas on the lips, gums, or inside the mouth.
  • Velvety white or red patches in the mouth
  • Persistent mouth sores that do not within 2 weeks
  • Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
  • Unexplained numbness or pain/tenderness in the area of the face, mouth, or neck
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Chronic sore throat, hoarseness, or change in voice
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Ear pain
  • Loose teeth


Oral Cancer Risk Factors:

  • Family history of cancer
  • More common in men than women
  • Individuals infected with HPV have higher risk
  • Smoking: Heavy smokers have a 20-fold greater risk
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol (heavy alcohol drinkers have a 5-fold greater risk of oral cancer)
  • Individuals who smoke and drink have a 50-fold greater risk
  • Smokeless tobacco users have up to a 50-fold greater risk