Lip & Oral Cavity Cancer

At a Glance

  • Risk factors for lip and oral cavity cancer include using tobacco products, heavy alcohol use, exposure to natural sunlight or artificial sunlight (such as from tanning beds) over long periods of time, being male, being infected with human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • Signs of lip and oral cavity cancer include a sore on the lip or in the mouth that does not heal; a lump or thickening on the lips or gums or in the mouth; a white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsils, or lining of the mouth; bleeding, pain, or numbness in the lip or mouth; change in voice, loose teeth or dentures that no longer fit well, trouble chewing or swallowing or moving the tongue or jaw, swelling of jaw, sore throat or feeling that something is caught in the throat.
  • Of people diagnosed, approximately 80 percent will survive.

About Lip and Oral Cavity Cancer

Lip and oral cavity cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the lips or mouth. Estimated new cases and deaths from oral cancer in the United States in 2010 are 36,540 and 7,880 respectively. The oral cavity includes the following:
  • The front two thirds of the tongue.
  • The gingiva (gums).
  • The buccal mucosa (the lining of the inside of the cheeks).
  • The floor (bottom) of the mouth under the tongue.
  • The hard palate (the roof of the mouth).
  • The retromolar trigone (the small area behind the wisdom teeth).
Most lip and oral cavity cancers start in squamous cells, the thin, flat cells that line the lips and oral cavity. These are called squamous cell carcinomas. Cancer cells may spread into deeper tissue as the cancer grows. Squamous cell carcinoma usually develops in areas of leukoplakia (white patches of cells that do not rub off).

Risk Factors

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Risk factors for lip and oral cavity cancer include the following:
  • Using tobacco products.
  • Heavy alcohol use.
  • Being exposed to natural sunlight or artificial sunlight (such as from tanning beds) over long periods of time.
  • Being male.
  • Being infected with human papillomavirus (HPV).

Symptoms

Possible signs of lip and oral cavity cancer include:
  • A sore on the lip or in the mouth that does not heal.
  • A lump or thickening on the lips or gums or in the mouth.
  • A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsils, or lining of the mouth.
  • Bleeding, pain, or numbness in the lip or mouth.
  • Change in voice.
  • Loose teeth or dentures that no longer fit well.
  • Trouble chewing or swallowing or moving the tongue or jaw.
  • Swelling of jaw.
  • Sore throat or feeling that something is caught in the throat.
If you have symptoms, increased risk factors or have recently been diagnosed with lip and oral cavity cancers, contact us to request an appointment with Diablo Valley Oncology’s physicians.