Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer, is where a tumour develops in the lining of the mouth. It may beon the surface of the tongue, the insides of the cheeks, the roof of the mouth (palate), or thelips or gums.
Tumourscan also develop in the glands that produce saliva, the tonsils at the back of the mouth,and thepart of the throat connecting your mouth to your windpipe (pharynx). However, these are less common.
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Symptoms of mouth cancer include:
See your GP or dentist if these symptomsdon't heal within three weeks, particularly if you drink or smoke heavily.
Mouth canceris categorised by the type of cell the cancer(carcinoma) starts in.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of mouth cancer, accounting for9 out of 10 cases.
Squamous cells are found in many places around the body, including the inside of the mouth and the skin.
Less common types of mouth cancer include:
Things that increase your risk of developing mouth cancer include:
Only one in eight (12.5%) cases affect people younger than 50.
Mouth cancer can occur in younger adults. HPV infection is thought to be associated with the majority of cases that occur in younger people.
Cancer of the mouth is also more common in men than in women. This may be because, on average, men tend to drink more alcohol than women.
There are three main treatment options for mouth cancer:
These treatments are often used in combination. For example, surgery may be followed by a course of radiotherapy to help prevent the cancer returning.
As well as trying to cure the cancer, treatment will focus on important functions of the mouth, such as breathing, speaking and eating. Maintaining the appearance of your mouth will also be given high priority.
It can affect the appearance of your mouth and make speaking and swallowing difficult (dysphagia) .
Dysphagia can be a potentially serious problem. If small pieces of food enter your airways and become lodged in your lungs, it could trigger a chest infection, known as aspiration pneumonia .
If you drink as much as 14 units a week, it's best to spread it evenly over three or more days.
In cases where the cancer is larger, there's still quite a good chance of a cure, but surgery should be followed by radiotherapy or a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy to give the best chance.
Advances in surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy have resulted in much improved cure rates.
Overall, around 60% of people with mouth cancer will live at least five years after their diagnosis, and many will live much longer without the cancer returning.
Read about mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer, including information about symptoms, types, causes, treatment, possible complications and reducing the risks.
Read about the symptoms of mouth cancer. Common symptoms are sore mouth ulcers that don't heal and unexplained, persistent lumps in the mouth or neck glands.
Read about the causes of mouth cancer. The two leading causes of mouth cancer in the UK are tobacco and alcohol.
Read about how mouth cancer is diagnosed. After a physical examination, you'll have a biopsy to remove a tissue sample for testing. You may also need further tests.
Find out how mouth cancer is treated. The type of cancer, its size and how far it's spread will be considered. Surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are the three main treatments.
Read about the complications of mouth cancer and its treatment, which can include difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) and speech problems. These can have an emotional impact.