Oral Cavity Cancer

This is a collective term given to cancers which affect any part of the oral cavity - this can include the lips, the inside lining of the lips and cheeks, the gums, the teeth, the front 2/3’s of the tongue, the area beneath the tongue and also the bony part of the roof of the mouth.

Many people will refer to this kind of cancer a mouth cancer. We have already looked at some of the cancer types which can be classed as Oral Cavity Cancer in our section Oropharyngeal Cancer so we will focus on the cancers which can affect the lips, cheeks, gums and teeth.

The majority of Oral Cavity Cancer will be squamous cell carcinoma which is when cancer cells develop in the soft skin that lines the mouth and throat. This kind of cancer accounts for 90% of oral cavity cancer.


There are a few symptoms and warning signs that can indicate oral cavity cancer. Please remember that cancer is quite rare and more often than not the symptoms will be harmless. However, if you have symptoms which persist for a prolonged period of time - more than 3 weeks - then go to your doctor and ask them to investigate.

There are plenty of fairly harmless illnesses which have the same symptoms but it is far better to get checked than to hope it goes away. Cancer always has a better outcome when it is caught early - so if any of the symptoms below persist for three weeks then call your GP and make an appointment:

  • sore throat/hoarse voice

  • lump in the neck

  • red/white patches in the mouth

  • difficulty swallowing

  • unusual weight loss

  • unexplained bleeding in the mouth

  • loose teeth

  • bad breath

  • ulcers in the mouth which do not heal

If you have any of the symptoms above which persist for longer than three weeks head to your GP and get yourself checked out. You can find your nearest GP here.

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