How does oral cancer begin?

Oral cancer begins when the normal "cell machinery" in the mouth breaks down and operates in an abnormal manner. These changes can be both gradual or dramatic in development depending on the circumstance. It can begin as a white or red patch, which can also become an ulceration that does not heal. Early detection remains key in improving your survival and many dentists now utilize a number of effective tests and screens for the early detection of oral cancer.
Oral cancer can affect any area of the oral cavity including the lips, gum tissue, check lining, tongue and the hard or soft palate. It often starts as a tiny, unnoticed white or red spot or sore anywhere in the mouth.

Regular dental check-ups, including an examination of the entire mouth, are essential in the early detection of cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions.
Oral cancer often begins as white or red patches, usually on the tongue or "floor" of the mouth. Other symptoms of oral cancer include:
  • mouth sores that do not heal
  • unexplained bleeding in the mouth
  • loose teeth
  • pain or difficulty when you swallow
  • lumps in the neck
  • persistent earaches
If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor soon.
Cancer begins in cells, the building blocks that make up tissues. Tissues make up the organs of the body.

Normal cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When normal cells grow old or get damaged, they die, and new cells take their place.

Sometimes, this process goes wrong. New cells form when the body doesn't need them, and old or damaged cells don't die as they should. The buildup of extra cells often forms a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor.

Oral cancer cells can spread by breaking away from the original tumor. They enter blood vessels or lymph vessels, which branch into all the tissues of the body. The cancer cells often appear first in nearby lymph nodes in the neck. The cancer cells may attach to other tissues and grow to form new tumors that may damage those tissues.

This answer is based on source information from theNational Cancer Institute.

Continue Learning about Oral Cancer

Oral Cancer

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer can grow anywhere in the oral cavity, which includes our lips, tongue, gums and even the floor and roof of our mouths. There are several types of oral cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma. I...

f detected early, oral cancer can be cured by surgically removing cancerous growths or tumors or using radiation therapy. Dentists are your first line of defense in early detection, since they are likely the first to spot a precancerous or cancerous lesion. Men are more likely to develop oral cancer, making it the sixth most common cancer among men. Smoking and drinking alcohol in excess can increase your risk. Learn more about preventing and treating oral cancer with expert advice from Sharecare.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.