What is Oral Cavity Cancer?
Oral cavity cancer, or just oral cancer, is cancer that starts in the mouth (also called the oral cavity). Cancer of the oral cavity is one of several types of cancers grouped in a category called head and neck cancers.
The oral cavity includes the lips, the inside lining of the lips and cheeks (buccal mucosa), the teeth, the gums, the front two-thirds of the tongue, the floor of the mouth below the tongue, and the bony roof of the mouth (hard palate).
Most lip and oral cavity cancers are squamous cell carcinomas because they start in squamous cells that line the inside of the lips and mouth. As the cancer cells grow, they may spread into deeper tissue. When discussing oral cavity cancer, many cancer specialists also include cancer of the pharynx. The pharynx is part of the throat behind your mouth and nasal cavity. Cancers that affect the oral cavity and the pharynx are called oropharyngeal cancer.
Risk Factors That Increase Your Risk of Developing Oral Cavity Cancer
Several risk factors can increase the likelihood of lip and oral cavity cancer developing.
Risk factors for oral cavity cancer include the following:
- Smoking or using smokeless tobacco
- Moderate or heavy alcohol consumption
- HPV infection
- High sun exposure to the lip
- A diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Gender: men develop this type of head and neck cancer about twice as often as women
Oral cancer is most common among people who smoke or use other tobacco products, as well as those who drink, especially heavy drinkers.
Having risk factors does not guarantee you will develop oral cavity cancer, and also, having no risk factors does not mean that you will not develop it. Your dentist can detect signs of cancer early, so seeing your dentist regularly is important, especially if you are at high risk for developing this type of cancer. Because risk factors do not determine whether you will develop cancer of the lip or oral cavity, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of oral cavity cancer.
The earlier oral cancer is detected, the better the outcomes are for patients diagnosed with this disease.
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Oral Cavity Cancer Treatment in the South Chicago Suburbs
If you have received a cancer diagnosis and are seeking treatment for oral cancer in the South Chicago suburbs, our cancer centers offer the latest oral cavity cancer treatment options. We also provide second opinions. Our head and neck cancer doctors help treat patients in Chicago Ridge, Mokena, Hazel Crest, Palos Heights, and Oak Lawn.