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Mouth Cancer: Everything You Need to Know

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Jul 06, 2022

Mouth Cancer: Everything You Need to Know

The mouth works wonders for people – it allows both eating and speaking, which are two of the most vital processes needed in everyday life. It plays an important role in allowing you to take in nutritious foods as well as to engage and connect with other people. And since it is regularly used for both digestion and communication, it is inevitable that some may suffer from different infections or conditions such as mouth sores (singaw), or in some instances, mouth cancer.

What is Mouth Cancer?

mouth cancer

As the name implies, mouth cancer is a type of cancer that takes place in the mouth or even around a person’s lips. It falls under the category of head and neck cancer which includes oropharyngeal (throat) cancer.

It is also often referred to as oral cancer (or oral cavity cancer) as it involves the beginning of tumor development on certain surfaces and areas around the mouth like the following:

  • teeth
  • tongue
  • insides of the cheeks 
  • gums
  • lining of the lips
  • floor of the mouth
  • hard palate (bony roof part of the mouth)
  • insides of the salivary glands 

Causes and other Risk Factors

Nearly anything that comes and goes out of the mouth may increase the risk of mouth cancer but a few of the most common ones are indicated below.

Smoking and Use of Tobacco

It is widely known that smoking can lead to several health conditions such as cancer. In an interview, the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology president Dr. Jose Garcia Jr. said that there are about 20 types of cancer that can be caused by smoking (Montemayor, 2019).

Moreover, the use of oral tobacco products is deemed to be a great risk factor because it has been associated with tumors found around the cheek area, gums, and inner surfaces of the lips. 


Alcohol use may increase the risk of oral cavity and oropharyngeal carcinoma. Adults who are thought to be heavy drinkers are at a larger risk of meeting this as a cause of the development of lumps in the mouth. 

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus family that includes over 150 different kinds. Its name traces its roots to the generation of papilloma or wart, which is why it also causes genital warts. There are studies that link HPV and oropharyngeal cancer, however, the data that links the virus to mouth cancer are still limited.

Sign and Symptoms

If you have mouth cancer, you may begin to notice these signs and symptoms taking place:

  • mouth ulcers
  • lip thickening
  • existing sore(s) or lump(s) found around the lips, mouth, and throat
  • unusual bleeding or numbness in your mouth
  • leukoplakia (white patches) on the tongue, cheek, and gum area
  • erythroplakia (red patches) on the tongue, cheek, and gum area
  • loose teeth for no clear reason
  • difficulty in moving the jaw to speak and swallow
  • unusual bleeding, discomfort, or numbness in the mouth
  • uncomfortable dentures caused by the swelling parts of the mouth 

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you are already experiencing some of the symptoms mentioned, it is advisable that you consult your dentist or any other medical practitioner knowledgeable in the field.

Early diagnosis of mouth cancer can prevent the spread of the cancer cells to other parts of the body.

Doctors provide cancer patients the necessary information about several treatments available such as:

  • Surgery 
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Cancer patients, regardless of stage, deserve all the support and knowledge they need. Weighing all of your options and locating possible locations and resources for treatment will assist you in making well-educated healthcare decisions.


One good thing to keep in mind is that mouth cancer can be avoided and it starts with you living a healthy lifestyle. Taking the necessary precautions such as avoiding alcohol and smoking can help you live a life free from mouth sores. 

Aside from that, you can also protect yourself from another prevalent risk factor like HPV. Have yourself vaccinated.

It is also recommended that you eat a balanced diet with foods rich in vitamins and minerals not only to power through your day, but also to make you immune from any avoidable infection that may come into play.

Key Takeaway

As all cancers are, mouth cancer can cause more comorbidities and other complications along the way. So, have your dental check-ups every once in a while to prevent the risk of developing lumps and tumors surrounding the mouth area.

Learn more about cancer diagnosis and management, here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

John Paul Abrina, MD

Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Jul 06, 2022

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