Oral Cancer

Oral cancers occur in the surfaces or glands of the mouth. Although more than 39,500 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year, the five-year survival rate for the most common type is around 80 percent if the disease is caught before it spreads.

The staff at the Beaumont Cancer Institute is dedicated to offering counseling, diagnosis and exceptional care to patients with oral cancer and their families. This includes sponsoring patient-support groups, such as the Laryngectomee Club for patients who have had their voice boxes removed.

Oral cancer is cancer found in the oral cavity (the mouth area) and the oropharynx (the throat area at the back of the mouth). Oral cancer is estimated to be diagnosed in almost 49,670 U.S. adults in 2017, according to the American Cancer Society.

The oral cavity includes:

  • the lips, teeth, and gums
  • the lining inside the lips and cheeks (buccal mucosa)
  • the floor of the mouth (under the tongue)
  • the top of the mouth (hard palate)
  • the small area behind the wisdom teeth

The oropharynx includes:

  • the back one-third of the tongue
  • the soft palate
  • the tonsils
  • the back of the throat

What causes oral cancer?

The main causes of oral cancer include the following:

  • tobacco use (90 percent of people with oral cancers use tobacco by smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, and dipping snuff)
  • alcohol use

Other causes of oral cancer may include the following:

  • leukoplakia - a condition characterized by a whitish patch that develops inside the mouth or throat.
  • erythroplakia - a condition characterized by a red, raised patch that develops inside the mouth.
  • excessive sun exposure, which, like elsewhere on the body, can cause cancer on the lip

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