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Oral Cancer (Condition)

What is oral cancer?

Oral cancer is cancer found in the oral cavity (the mouth area) and the oropharynx (the throat area at the back of the mouth). Oral cancer is estimated to be diagnosed in almost 36,720 US adults in 2009, according to the American Cancer Society.

The oral cavity includes:

  • the lips, teeth, and gums
  • the front two-thirds of the tongue
  • the lining inside the lips and cheeks (buccal mucosa)
  • the floor of the mouth (under the tongue)
  • the top of the mouth (hard palate)
  • the small area behind the wisdom teeth

The oropharynx includes:

  • the back one-third of the tongue
  • the soft palate
  • the tonsils
  • the back of the throat
What causes oral cancer?

The main causes of oral cancer are:

  • tobacco use
  • alcohol use

Other causes of oral cancer may include the following:

  • a diet low in fruits and vegetables
  • human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • excessive sun exposure, which, like elsewhere on the body, can cause cancer on the lip
Treatment for oral cancer:

Specific treatment for oral cancer will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference