What should I know about oral cancer?

Oral cancer is cancer that forms in any part of the mouth or throat, which includes the lips and tongue.

Oral cancer is divided into two types of cancer — oral cavity and oropharyngeal.

Oral cavity cancer starts in the mouth; oropharyngeal cancer develops in the throat just behind the mouth (also called the oropharynx).

A sore in the mouth that continues to bleed and does not heal is the most common symptom of oral cancer, as well as pain in the mouth that does not go away.

Other signs and symptoms include: loose teeth; earache; a sore on the lip that does not heal; a lump or thickening in the neck or cheek; white or red patches in the mouth, on the tongue, gums or tonsils; difficulties in chewing, swallowing or moving the tongue or jaw; a sore throat or a feeling that something is caught in the throat.

Most often these symptoms are not cancer related and may be triggered by less-serious problems. However, if you experience any of the above signs and/or symptoms that last longer than two weeks, it is important to see a doctor or dentist for further diagnosis and treatment.

Preventative efforts that help lower the risk of oral cancer include eliminating the use of tobacco products, including pipe and cigar tobacco, and limiting alcohol use, even after long time usage.

Eating a well-balanced diet that includes at least five servings of fruit and vegetables everyday can also lower the risk of developing oral cancer.

Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge hosts a support group for oral, head and neck cancer survivors at 4 p.m. on the third Wednesday of every month.

Cancer survivors and their family members are invited to attend.

For more information, contact Courtney Britton, librarian at Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, at (225) 927-2273, cbritton@cancerservices.org, or visit the Education Center at 550 Lobdell Ave., Baton Rouge.

ä Internet Resources:

What You Need to Know about Oral Cancer – NCI


Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer – ACS


This column is presented as a service by Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, a United Way affiliate.