About Mouth Cancer

Mouth cancer, or oral cancer, is head and neck cancer that begins in the mouth. Tumours on the tongue, cheek, palate, lips, gums and floor of the mouth are common types of mouth cancer. There are different types of cells in the mouth and wherein the cells cancer begins determines the type of mouth cancer. Mouth cancer is relatively more common in people over 60 and in men than in women. Though this cancer is relatively common worldwide, it is not very common in the UK. The five-year survival rate or mouth cancer life expectancy depends upon the stage and type of mouth cancer.


One of the earliest symptoms of mouth cancer is an ulcer (painless or painful) that does not heal for several weeks. Other symptoms that you may experience if you have mouth cancer are:

  • An unexplained or abnormal lump or growth in the mouth or neck.
  • White or reddish patches on the tongue, the floor of the mouth, the inner lining of the cheeks or gums.
  • Loss of sensation in one or more parts of the mouth.
  • Increased mobility of teeth without an identifiable cause.
  • An odd or abnormal feeling or numbness on the lips.
  • Changes in speech.
  • Difficulty in swallowing.
  • Altered taste.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, get them checked out by your dentist today. Mouth cancer treatment options will depend upon multiple factors but require a few diagnostic tests.


After evaluating your medical history, lifestyle, signs and symptoms, your dentist may recommend the following diagnostic tests if they suspect mouth cancer:

  • Blood tests
  • X-ray

An extraoral x-ray (panoramic) or a CBCT may be advised to check the tissues for abnormalities in and around the mouth.


  • Biopsy

When the dentist or the oncologist has a strong suspicion about an abnormal growth in the mouth, they might collect a tissue sample and send it for further analysis and staging. Biopsy results enable the doctor to determine how to treat mouth cancer and are also used in cancer staging.


  • Imaging tests like CT scan, MRI or a PET scan

Imaging tests may be advised to check if the mouth cancer has spread to nearby regions, affected lymph nodes or other organs. Stage 4 mouth cancer is the most advanced stage characterised by the spread of cancer cells to nearby lymph nodes, other tissues in the mouth and even distant parts of the body.


The standard mouth cancer treatment options include:

  • Surgery

The main objective of surgery is to remove the cancerous tissue and preserve as many structures in the mouth as possible. It is used when mouth cancer is diagnosed early and has a high chance of getting cured. In some stage 2 and stage 3 cases, the affected lymph nodes may also be removed during surgery.


  • Radiation therapy

This treatment uses high-energy x-ray radiation to kill cancer cells. It may be used to kill any remaining cancer cells after surgery to prevent a recurrence. 


  • Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells and may be combined with radiation therapy if there is a high chance of the mouth cancer returning.

Though chemotherapy and mouth cancer side effects are widely known, every treatment has pros and cons. Your doctor will chart out the best treatment plan for your condition, which depends upon the type and stage of your cancer, its spread, age, and overall health.

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