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Frequently Asked Questions

Posted By pcfadmin On March 24, 2011 @ 3:13 pm In | No Comments

What is oral cancer? [1]
What is the oral cavity? [2]
What is the difference between oral cancer and throat cancer? [3]
Who gets oral cancer? [4]
What are symptoms of oral cancer? [5]
How can I lower my risk for oral cancer? [6]
What are the stages of oral cancer? [7]
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What is oral cancer?

Oral cancer is part of a group of cancers of the mouth and throat. Oral cancer can develop in any part of the oral cavity (the mouth and lips) or oropharynx (the part of the throat at the back of the mouth). Most oral cancer begins in the flat cells (squamous cells) that cover the surfaces of the mouth, tongue, and lips. These cancers are called squamous cell carcinomas.
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What is the oral cavity?

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).
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What is the difference between oral cancer and throat cancer?

There are two kinds of oral cancer: oral cavity cancer, which starts in the mouth, and oropharyngeal cancer, which develops in the part of the throat just behind the mouth or the back of the tongue and the throat (called the oropharynx).
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Who gets oral cancer?

Gender Oral cancer is twice as common in men as in women. This is because men are more likely to use tobacco and alcohol over long periods of time and in large enough doses to cause these cancers.
Age The likelihood of developing oral cancer increases with age. Two thirds of all oral cancers are diagnosed in people older than 55 years.

  • Approximately 8 out of 10 people with oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers use tobacco, and the risk of developing these cancers is related to how much and how long they smoked or chewed.
  • Seven out of 10 patients with oral cancer drink alcohol frequently. The risk of these cancers in heavy drinkers and smokers may be as much as 100 times more than the risk of these cancers in people who don’t smoke or drink.
  • Cancer of the lip is more common in people who have outdoor jobs associated with prolonged exposure to sunlight.
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables is associated with an increased risk of developing cancer of the oral cavity.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) may contribute to the development of approximately one-quarter of oral cancer cases.
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What are symptoms of oral cancer?

These and other symptoms may be caused by lip and oral cavity cancer. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. A health care professional should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:

  • White or red patches on the lips, gum, tongue or mouth lining
  • A lump which can be felt inside the mouth or on the neck
  • Pain or difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking
  • Hoarseness lasting a long time
  • Numbness or pain in any area of the mouth that doesn’t go away
  • Swelling of the jaw
  • Loosening of teeth
  • Difficulty wearing dentures
  • Bleeding in the mouth
  • A sore that doesn’t go away on the lips or in the mouth
  • An earache that doesn’t go away

Lip and oral cavity cancer may not have any symptoms and is sometimes found during a regular dental exam.
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How can I lower my risk for oral cancer?

Most oral cancers can be prevented by avoiding risk factors, primarily tobacco and alcohol use. Smoking, smokeless tobacco, and alcohol substantially increase the risk of developing oral cancer. Quitting tobacco and limiting alcohol use significantly lower the risk of developing these cancers, even after many years of use. In addition, eating a healthy, balanced diet with at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day may provide some protection against oral cancer. Finally, lip cancers can be prevented by avoiding unprotected sun exposure, as well as pipe and cigar tobacco.
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What are the stages of oral cancer?

Stage 0
In stage 0, abnormal cells are found in the lining of the lips and oral cavity. These abnormal cells may become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue. Stage 0 is also called carcinoma in situ.

Stage I
In stage I, cancer has formed and the tumor is 2 centimeters or smaller. Cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage II
In stage II, the tumor is larger than 2 centimeters but not larger than 4 centimeters, and cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage III
In stage III, the tumor:

  • may be any size and has spread to a single lymph node that is 3 centimeters or smaller, on the same side of the neck as the cancer; or
  • is larger than 4 centimeters.

Stage IV
Stage IV is divided into stages IVA, IVB, and IVC as follows:

  • In stage IVA, the tumor:
    • has spread to nearby tissues in the lip and oral cavity; or
    • is any size and may have spread to nearby tissues in the lip and oral cavity. Cancer has spread to 1 or more lymph nodes on one or both sides of the neck, and the involved lymph nodes are 6 centimeters or smaller.
  • In stage IVB, the tumor:
    • may be any size and has spread to one or more lymph nodes that are larger than 6 centimeters; or
    • has spread to the muscles or bones in the oral cavity, or to the base of the skull and/or the carotid artery. Cancer may have spread to one or more lymph nodes on one or both sides of the neck.
  • In stage IVC, the tumor has spread beyond the lip and oral cavity to other parts of the body. The tumor may be any size and may have spread to the lymph nodes.

Sources: National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society


Article printed from Prevent Cancer Foundation: http://preventcancer.org

URL to article: http://preventcancer.org/prevention/preventable-cancers/oral-cancer/faq/

URLs in this post:

[1] What is oral cancer?: #what-oral-cancer

[2] What is the oral cavity?: #what-oral-cavity

[3] What is the difference between oral cancer and throat cancer?: #what-difference-oral-throat-cancer

[4] Who gets oral cancer?: #who-oral-cancer

[5] What are symptoms of oral cancer?: #symptoms-oral-cancer

[6] How can I lower my risk for oral cancer?: #lower-risk-oral-cancer

[7] What are the stages of oral cancer?: #stages-oral-cancer

[8] Back to top: #top

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