Close this search box.

Basic information about oral cancer

Did you know that…?

Oral cancer is a dangerous and sneaky disease. Late detection of cancer results in a mortality rate of 40-50 percent within 5 years. Other patients, after complex surgical treatment, live with major facial mutilations and greatly diminished comfort in their lives.
Because of the lost tissue, they may experience difficulty swallowing, speaking, chewing and breathing.

Do you know what the risk factors are?

  • Over 40 years of age
  • Smoking and tobacco use now or in the past (oral cancer is a tobacco-related cancer)
  • Tobacco + alcohol (increases incidence by about 15 times)
  • HPV 16 or 18 infection (people who have multiple sexual partners, engage in oral sex)
  • Chronic trauma to the lips and mouth (biting, compression with dentures, etc.)
  • Exposure to UV and ionizing radiation (e.g. foresters, farmers, sailors)
  • A history or a family history of cancer

Oral cancer is a malignant neoplasm, most commonly affecting:

  • tongue,
  • floor of the mouth,
  • lips, especially the lower lip,
  • gums,
  • cheeks.

Signs and symptoms of oral cancer:

  • A non-healing, easily bleeding, usually non-painful ulceration on the lips, tongue, gums, or inside of the cheeks,
  • A palpable lump or thickening in the mouth,
  • Loss of sensation, numbness of the lips, tongue or inside the mouth,
  • White or red spots on the gums, tongue, or mucous membranes,
  • Swelling of the jaw leading to a poor fit of a previously worn denture,
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing,
  • Suddenly occurring lisping, change in tone of voice, choking sensation,
  • Obstruction in the throat for no known reason,
  • Limited mobility and pain in the tongue.

Early diagnosis means higher survival rates

Most cases of oral cancer could be prevented if a dentist, ENT specialist or general practitioner paid attention to changes in the oral mucosa that are visible to the naked eye. Of course, they are not all malignant in nature. According to modern recommendations, if the lesion does not heal within two weeks after implementing treatment, the patient should be referred for a more thorough diagnosis.

As with many cancers, patient self-observation is important in preventing lesions from developing. On the foundation’s website, we provide a self-examination schedule for the oral cavity and head and neck region. We strongly recommend that once a month, like in the case of breast or prostate self-screening, you conduct such self-examination.  If you detect a change that does not disappear or does not heal for two or more weeks, it requires a thorough medical diagnosis.

What could be of concern?

  • erosion that does not heal for a long time, white, red, or white-red lesion,
  • bleeding – other than from the gums,
  • difficulties in speech and/or swallowing,
  • a feeling of numbness, including numbness of the tongue,
  • chronic hoarseness,
  • Other cancers – such as leukemia – may also manifest in the mouth before the patient is properly diagnosed.

Stay alert. What can you do yourself?

View your mouth including throat and tonsils in good light, in front of a mirror. Pay attention to:

  • labial red,
  • tongue,
  • a triangle in the mandible behind the last molar teeth (retromolar triangle),
  • buccal mucosa,
  • floor of the mouth.

An important part of cancer prevention is a thorough examination of the tissues of the mouth, head and neck during routine dental visits. Cancers detected early and treated properly are curable in 80 percent of cases.