Disorders and DiseasesOncology

Mouth cancer: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What is Mouth cancer? Meaning, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Complications, Treatment, and Prevention of Mouth cancer...  

What is Mouth cancer?

Mouth cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in any of the parts that make up the mouth (i.e. oral cavity).

The uncontrollable growth of anomalous and tumor in the oral cavity (Mouth) is responsible for causes mouth cancer. It mostly develops in the tongue, but it can also occur in any of the other parts of the Mouth.

Mouth cancer can develop on the:

  • Lips
  • Gums
  • Tongue
  • The inner lining of the cheeks
  • A roof of the mouth
  • A floor of the mouth (that is under the tongue)

Cancer that develops inside the mouth is sometimes called oral cancer or oral cavity cancer. Mouth cancer is one of the different types of cancers grouped in a category called head and neck cancers. Head & neck cancers and Mouth cancer are often treated quite similarly.

Mouth cancer in tongue

Mouth cancer can have any of the below listed histologic types:

  • Adenocarcinoma: from salivary gland
  • Lymphoma: from tonsils or other lymphoid tissues
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: from a lining of the mouth and lips
  • Melanoma: from pigment-producing cells available in the mucous of the oral cavity
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma: possibly from any part of an upper surface of the mouth cells

Symptoms of Mouth cancer

Mouth cancer signs and symptoms are difficult to feel initially. It is mostly mistaken with cough and cold or other throat and dental problems. However, if they persist, a thorough checkup for malignancy is recommended.

Signs and symptoms of mouth cancer can be:

  • Constant pain in the tongue, gums jawline or in general within the mouth
  • The recurring mouth and tongue ulcers
  • Loose teeth
  • White or red patches within the palate, floor or under the tongue.
  • Pain during chewing or swallowing food
  • Ear pain
  • A feeling of a sore throat over an extended period which does not seem to heal
  • Lumps or nodular formations along the lining of a mouth
  • Hoarse voice and difficulty in talking

How Mouth cancer occur?

An oral cancer develops when cells on the lips or in the mouth develop mutations (Changes) in their DNA. A cell’s DNA having the instructions which tell a cell what to do.

The mutations change informs the cells to continue growing and dividing when healthy cells would die. The accumulating abnormal mouth cancer cells may form a tumor. With time they can spread inside the mouth and other areas of the head and neck or other parts of the body.

Mouth cancers generally begin in the flat, thin cells (squamous cells) that line your lips and the inside of the mouth. Most of the oral cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.

It’s not clear regarding the reason behind mutations in squamous cells that results in mouth cancer. But oncologists have identified some factors that can increase the risk of mouth cancer. We will discuss the risk factor in the below section.

Causes of Mouth cancer

Factors that can increase your risk of mouth cancer can be:

  • Continuous and habitual chewing of tobacco
  • Smoking cigarettes, cannabis joint, pipes, snuff, and other nicotine-based products
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Excessive exposure to direct sunlight
  • Exposure to heavy industrial lights
  • Chewing of betel nuts, a popular bad habit of South Asian people
  • Human papillomavirus infection (HPV) – an ST
  • Frequent attacks of acid reflux
  • Genetic history of the cancer
  • Weak immune system

Prevention of Mouth cancer

Certain habits can decrease the chances of mouth cancer significantly, especially if a person has a family history of the disease.

  • Quit smoking and tobacco
  • Reduce or stop drinking alcohol
  • Avoid over-exposure to sun and particles such as asbestos, formaldehyde, and acidic components. It is important for the people who are working in factory or construction sites.
  • See your dentist regularly
  • Avoiding excessive junk and processed food

smoking and drinking : avoid to prevent mouth cancer

Diagnosis of Mouth cancer

First step: The doctor will perform a primary checkup of the oral cavity to see if there is any anomaly they can spot. This is typically accompanied by a brush biopsy of the affected tissues, where samples are brushed off painlessly into a collection tray in order to perform the further test.

Second step: An X-ray or CT scan to check how widespread the malignant tumor is in the oral cavity.

Third step: An MRI Scan of full head and neck to examine the stage and other details of the tumor, including an accurate image of the spread.

Fourth step: A PET scan to examine if cancer has spread to the glands and lymph nodes near the head and neck region.

Fifth Step: An endoscopy to get the proper imaging of the dental structure, nasal passages, throat, windpipe, sinus, trachea, pharynx, and larynx.

Treatment of Mouth cancer

Mouth Cancer in its early stages can be treated to cure but there are always chances of recurrence. The patient should always be regular for follow up diagnosis following the treatment procedures to keep it under lookup.


By doing an incision in the mouth, jaw or near the throat, the tissues affected by tumor are taken out by surgery. In some severe cases, a larger portion of the mouth might have to be taken out and there is a chance of changes the facial structure. In such type of cases, another surgery is required to reconstruct it back with grafting of muscles, bones or dental implants.

Radiation therapy:

Radiation is a very common and well-received treatment for oral cancer. The high energy X-ray beams are able to damage the DNA inside the cancerous cells, destroying their ability to multiply.

External Beam Radiation Therapy called EBRT.  It is used for advanced stages where the rays are directly pointed from outside, while Brachytherapy used for initial stages, places radioactive particles which are safe for healthy cells but destroy the malignant cells inside.

Cancer Treatment


Chemotherapy involves very strong medicines to destroy the bad cells for critical cases, especially for recurring cases. It is effective on cancerous cells, but also damages some of the adjacent healthy ones as well, along with side effects like nausea and vomiting.

Targeted drug therapy:

This is generally an associate treatment along with radiation or chemo. The monoclonal antibody medicines change the molecular structure of the cancerous cells and prevent them from the multiplying.


Immunotherapy uses the immune system to fight mouth cancer.  If someone is suffering from cancer, Body’s disease-fighting immune system may not attack cancer as the cancer cells produce proteins that blind the immune system cells. Immunotherapy works by interfering with this process.

Immunotherapy treatments are typically for patients with advanced oral cancer that’s not responding to other standard treatments.

Complications of Mouth cancer

The treatments of oral cancer mostly come with major or minor post-treatment complications; the degree of complications depends on the treatment and criticalness of the condition.

  • Changes in the facial structure
  • Difficulty in chewing, swallowing and talking
  • Tooth decay and sore, bleeding gums
  • Change in how things taste in a mouth
  • Thyroid gland problems (Rare)

Home remedies for Mouth cancer

Leafy vegetables: It contains anti-cancer properties and helps to prevent the spread and recurrence of the tumor cells.

Raspberry juice: It is beneficial for all kinds of cancers.

Green Tea: As we all know, it is rich in antioxidants which fight the free radicals which can trigger the anomaly in the cells that cause cancer.

Avocados: The vitamin C rich avocados kill the cells in the pre-cancer stage so it cannot spread.

Do you know?

  • Working in industries and sites near harmful chemicals can cause the Oral (or other face and neck) cancer.
  • Mouth cancer is divided by the TNM system (i.e. T – tumor size, N – spreading to lymph nodes, M – spreading to the other body parts)

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