X-rays and CT scans may be done to determine if the cancer has spread.
Surgery to remove the tumor is usually recommended if the tumor is small enough. Surgery may be used together with radiation therapy and chemotherapy for larger tumors. Surgery is not commonly done if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the neck.
Other treatments may include speech therapy or other therapy to improve movement, chewing, swallowing, and speech.
You can ease the stress of illness by joining a support group of people who share common experiences and problems. See cancer - support group.
Approximately half of people with oral cancer will live more than 5 years after they are diagnosed and treated. If the cancer is found early, before it has spread to other tissues, the cure rate is nearly 90%. However, more than half of oral cancers have already spread when the cancer is detected. Most have spread to the throat or neck.
About 1 in 4 persons with oral cancer die because of delayed diagnosis and treatment.
Complications of radiation therapy, including dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
Disfigurement of the face, head, and neck after surgery
Oral cancer may be discovered when the dentist performs a routine cleaning and examination.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have a sore in your mouth or lip or a lump in the neck that does not go away within 1 month. Early diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer greatly increases the chances of survival.
Avoid smoking or other tobacco use
Have dental problems corrected
Limit or avoid alcohol use
Practice good oral hygiene
National Comprehensive Cancer Network Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Head and Neck Cancers. National Comprehensive Cancer Network; 2009. Version 2.2009.
Posner M. Head and neck cancer. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 200.
Wein RO, Malone JP, Weber RS. Malignant neoplasms of the oral cavity. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund VJ, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery. 5th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 96.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.