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Oral Cavity Cancer

Oral cavity cancer, or as it is more commonly referred to, mouth cancer, is defined as a cancer that occurs in any portion of the oral cavity, including the lips, gums, tongue, cheek lining, roof of the mouth and floor of the mouth. Most lip and oral cavity cancers start in squamous cells, the thin, flat cells lining the inside of the lips and mouth, though as they progress, they can spread to deeper tissues. Many factors can increase the risk of oral cavity cancers, including heavy alcohol use and tobacco use of any kind.


Some of the symptoms of oral cavity cancer include:

  • A sore on the lip or mouth that doesn’t heal
  • A lump or thickening in the mouth, lips or gums
  • Pain, numbness or bleeding on the lip or in the mouth
  • White or red patch in the mouth or on lips or gums
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing or moving tongue or jaw
  • Jaw swelling
  • Sore throat or feeling like something is caught in throat
  • Loose teeth or dentures that no longer fit
  • Change in voice
  • Ear pain
  • Mouth pain

Treatment Options

Once oral cavity cancer is discovered a sample of the tissue may be biopsied to help determine the extent of the disease. To determine the cancer’s stage, an endoscopy may be used. This procedure utilizes a small, flexible tube with a camera that examines your throat to see if the cancer has spread outside of your mouth. They may also use imaging tests, such as X-ray, CT, MRI and PET scans to determine if the cancer has spread. Treatment options for mouth cancer include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Surgery may be used to remove the tumor, which can be a minor surgery if the cancer is small, or a major surgery if it is larger and involves removing part of the jawbone or tongue. Surgery may also be needed to remove lymph nodes in the neck if the cancer has spread there. And, because these surgeries can affect your ability to talk and eat, along with how you look, reconstructive surgery may be recommended. Dental implants may also be needed to replace any teeth lost. In some cases, patients may require a tube to assist with eating/drinking/taking medications. Radiation may be used in conjunction with surgery or chemotherapy or, in some situations, used alone. Sometimes, if standard treatments aren’t working, targeted drug therapy and/or immunotherapies may be used. This treatment uses your own immune system to fight cancer cells.

Previous Page Last Review Date: October 21, 2020
Oral Cavity Cancer Team
Rodrigo Arrangoiz, MD, MS, FACS

Rodrigo Arrangoiz, MD, MS, FACS

Oncology Surgery
Hialeah 33016
Adrian Legaspi, MD, FACS

Adrian Legaspi, MD, FACS

Oncology Surgery
Hialeah 33016