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What is 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.
Cancer is defined as the uncontrollable growth of cells that invade and cause damage to surrounding tissue. Oral cancer often appears as a growth, sore, or red patch that does not go away. Oral cancer -- which includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheek, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and pharynx (throat) -- can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated early.
A type of cancer affecting the mouth, throat, lips, tongue, palate, cheeks and sinuses, oral cancer has been termed the "cancer you can catch" due to the alarming risk of HPV16 virus infection which is on the dramatic rise, especially amongst teenagers who engage in unhealthy and unprotected sexual activity. No longer considered a cancer contracted primarily by drinking and smoking (alcohol and tobacco remain high risk factors), HPV, the same virus related to cervical cancer, transmitted by oral sex, has made unsuspecting and unknowing teenagers the fastest growing risk group for oral cancer. Preventive education and Early Detection remain the most important for oral cancer survival. For more information, go to oralcancerfoundation.org. 
Oral cancer is cancer of the mouth that can occur on your tongue, lips, tonsils, and even on the top or bottom of your mouth. There are many types of oral cancer -- squamous cell carcinoma, verrucous carcinoma, mucoepidermoid carcinoma, osteosarcoma, malignant melanoma, and Kaposi's sarcoma. Once the cancer is large enough to see, it looks like an open wound or an area that is a different color than it should be. Oral cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancers, as it is mainly caused by smoking and alcohol use. Oral cancer is treatable if found early enough, but can be fatal.

Continue Learning about Oral Cancer

What is the rate of incidence for mouth cancer?
American Dental AssociationAmerican Dental Association
The National Cancer Institute estimates that about 40,000 people in the United States will be diagno...
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How do other illnesses affect oral cancer?
RealAgeRealAge
While other illnesses can affect oral cancer, infection with the human papillomavirus, which is ...
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Is there a cure for oral cancer?
Marshall Posner, MDMarshall Posner, MD
Yes there is a cure if it is found in time and you have a team of caregivers that include a surgeon,...
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Is oral cancer serious?
John Van der Werff, DDSJohn Van der Werff, DDS
Yes. The most common form of oral cancer is squamous cell carcinoma which is known to metastasize an...
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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.