• Clinical science

Oral cavity cancer


Oral cavity cancers refer to malignant tumors of the oral mucosa, tonsils, and salivary glands. Predisposing factors include smoking, oral tobacco consumption, long term alcohol use, and human papilloma virus infection. Oral cavity cancers usually present in males, aged 55–60 years, with clinical features like pain, dysphagia, or a nonhealing ulcer on the tonsils, tongue, or oral mucosa. Clinically suspected cases are confirmed via histopathological examination of a biopsy specimen. Imaging and panendoscopy help determine the extent of the tumor and to rule out spread. Treatment depends upon the stage of the tumor and the extent of its spread, and may include surgical resection (usually with neck dissection), radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy.


  • Peak incidence: 55–60 years
  • Sex: > 2:1


Epidemiological data refers to the US, unless otherwise specified.


  • Risk factors
    • Oral tobacco consumption (e.g., snuff, paan/betel quid), smoking
    • Long-term alcohol consumption
    • Poor oral hygiene, chronic mechanical irritation (e.g., badly positioned dentures)
    • Human papillomavirus, particularly HPV 16, 18, 31, and 33
    • Presence of precancerous lesions : leukoplakia , erythroplakia , erythroleukoplakia


Types of cancers in the oral cavity


Clinical features

A second carcinoma often develops close to the primary lesion!






  • Early diagnosis and treatment usually result in a good curative rate.
  • HPV-positive tumors have a good prognosis since they respond better to chemo- and/or radiotherapy.


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  • The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team. Treatment Options for Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer by Stage. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/oral-cavity-and-oropharyngeal-cancer/treating/by-stage.html. Updated March 2, 2017. Accessed July 4, 2017.
last updated 02/20/2019
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