Mouth cancer


Mouth cancer is a type of cancer that affects the tissues of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, salivary glands and the roof of the mouth. It is also known as oral cancer or cancer of the head and neck. This type of cancer is most commonly caused by prolonged exposure to environmental and lifestyle factors, such as smoking and drinking alcohol. Symptoms of mouth cancer can include lumps in the mouth, sores that won’t heal, difficulty swallowing, bad breath, and changes in the appearance of the mouth. Treatment options depend on the type and stage of mouth cancer, and may involve surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy.


The symptoms of mouth cancer may vary depending on where the cancer originated. Common symptoms include:

  • A sore in the mouth that does not heal
  • Pain or tenderness in the mouth
  • Lumps or thickened areas inside the mouth
  • White, red, or discolored patches on the gums, tongue, or lining of the mouth
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Sore throat, hoarseness, or changes to your voice
  • Swelling of the jaw or neck
  • Unexplained, persistent bad breath
  • Unusual bleeding or numbness in the mouth
  • Unexplained weight loss


Mouth cancer is typically caused by long-term exposure to carcinogens, such as the following:

  1. Tobacco smoking or chewing – Both regular and occasional tobacco users are at higher risk for developing oral cancer than non-tobacco users. This includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, and snuff.
  2. Excessive alcohol consumption – People who drink alcohol excessively are also at higher risk for developing mouth cancer.
  3. HPV (Human papillomavirus) – HPV is a virus that can cause oral cancer in certain people, usually in those over the age of 45.
  4. Poor Oral Hygiene – Poor oral hygiene, such as not brushing your teeth or only brushing them infrequently, can increase your risk of developing mouth cancer.
  5. Environmental factors – Exposure to certain environmental pollutants, such as asbestos or arsenic, can increase your risk of oral cancer.
  6. Age and Gender – Mouth cancer is more common in those who are over the age of 40, and it is more common in men than women.

Risk factors

The risk factors for mouth cancer include:

  • Using tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Having several oral lesions or sores that do not heal
  • Being over the age of 45
  • Spending a lot of time in the sun
  • Having a weakened immune system due to certain medical conditions or treatments
  • Having a diet low in fruits and vegetables
  • Having a family history of oral cancer


Mouth cancer is typically diagnosed through a physical examination of the mouth and neck by a healthcare provider, such as an oral surgeon, oral pathologist, or dentist. During the physical exam, the provider will look for any swelling, lumps, discoloration, or ulcerations in the mouth. The provider may also examine the lymph nodes in the neck for signs of metastasis. In some cases, the provider may order additional tests, such as a biopsy of suspicious tissue or imaging like CT scans, to confirm the diagnosis of mouth cancer.


There are four main subtypes of mouth cancer:

  1. Squamous cell carcinoma: This is the most common type of mouth cancer, and is found in the cells that line the inside of the mouth.
  2. Verrucous carcinoma: This type is often slow-growing and less aggressive than other types. It’s commonly found on the tongue and bottom of the mouth.
  3. Adenocarcinoma: This type of mouth cancer is found in the salivary glands.
  4. Mucoepidermoid carcinoma: This type is found in the minor salivary glands in the mouth.


Treatment options for mouth cancer depend on several factors including the location, size, and stage of the cancer as well as the patient’s overall health. Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, photodynamic therapy, or a combination of these treatments. Surgery is the most common treatment and may involve removing the cancerous tissue. Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to destroy cancer cells and may be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is a type of drug treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. Immunotherapy is a form of biological therapy that uses drugs to strengthen the body’s immune system so it can fight the cancer. Photodynamic therapy uses a light-activated drug to damage cancer cells and may be used alone or in combination with other treatments. Treatment decisions are decided on a case-by-case basis and involve the doctor, patient, and family members.


  1. Quit smoking and/or using smokeless tobacco products.
  2. Reduce your alcohol consumption.
  3. Try to maintain a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  4. Visit your dentist regularly for a professional cleaning and check-up.
  5. Perform regular self-examinations to identify any suspicious changes in your mouth.
  6. Avoid or reduce exposure to the sun, particularly between the hours of 10am and 4pm.
  7. Wear a lip balm with sunscreen.
  8. Use a straw when drinking hot liquids.
  9. Protect your lips and cheeks with a scarf or other protective clothing while outdoors.
  10. 0. Talk to your doctor about potential risks and how to reduce them.

Gender differences?

Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of mouth cancer. Some studies have found that men are more likely than women to present with advanced-stage mouth cancer, which can be attributed to differences in smoking and drinking habits between genders. Additionally, women tend to be more likely than men to receive adjuvant therapy for advanced-stage mouth cancer. In addition, studies have found that the survival rate for women with mouth cancer is lower than that of men, likely due to the fact that women tend to be diagnosed at a later stage of the disease due to being less likely to seek medical attention for early symptoms. Therefore, it is important for healthcare professionals to be aware of the gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of mouth cancer to ensure that all patients receive timely and appropriate treatment.


Good nutrition plays a key role in the management of mouth cancer. Eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables can help the body fight off cancer and can assist in recovery from the disease. A balanced diet that meets the body’s nutrient needs can help boost the immune system and help ensure a fast recovery from treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. Moreover, consuming certain vitamins and minerals, such as folate, selenium, vitamins A, B6 and C can help reduce the risk of mouth cancer and slow its recurrence. Eating foods that are rich in antioxidants can also help protect healthy cells from the damage caused by cancer-causing substances, such as free radicals. Finally, eating a diet low in saturated fats, trans fats and avoiding alcohol and smoking can help reduce the risk of developing mouth cancer in the first place.

Physical Activity

Physical activity has been studied in relation to mouth cancer, and overall, it appears to be associated with a reduced risk. Regular physical activity has been shown to help regulate the body’s hormone levels, which may help reduce the risk of certain cancers, including mouth cancer. Additionally, physical activity has been linked to lower levels of certain types of inflammation, which may also reduce the risk of certain kinds of cancer. Finally, physical activity has been associated with increased antioxidant activity, which can help protect cells in the mouth from damage caused by carcinogens.

Further Reading

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