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Mouth Cancer – Causes and Symptoms

Mouth cancer is also known as “Oral cancer” or “Oral cavity cancer“. In this type of cancer, a tumor develops in a part of your mouth. It may be on the surface of the tongue, the inside of your cheeks, the roof of the mouth, the lips, or the gums.

However, the tumors may also develop in the glands producing saliva, the tonsils at the back of your mouth. It may also occur in the part of your throat connecting your mouth and your windpipe also known as the Pharynx.

Mouth or oral cancer is a very common disease in India, and almost 20,000 people out of 1 lakh people are suffering from this. Whereas, the United States has a much lesser amount of people suffering from mouth or oral cancer.

Causes of mouth cancer

There are several causes of mouth cancer. The risk factors are listed below:

  • Smoking – If you are smoking a cigarette, cigar, or pipe, then you’re six times more likely to develop oral cancers than non-smokers.
  • Smokeless tobacco users – If you are using dip, snuff, or chewing tobacco products, then you’re 50 times more likely to develop cancers inside the cheek, gums, and in the lining of the lips.
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol – Oral cancers is 6 times more likely to develop if you’re consuming a lot of alcohol.
  • Family history of cancer.
  • Excessive sun exposure, especially at a young age.

However, it is important to point out that over 25 percent of the people suffers from mouth because they do not smoke but drinks alcohol occasionally. Most of the people suffering from oral cancer belong to the low-income group. As a result, many of them are unable to afford the treatment of their oral cancer.

Symptoms of mouth cancer

The most common symptoms of oral or mouth cancer are:

  • Swellings or thickenings, lumps or bumps, rough spots, crusts or eroded areas on the lips, gums, and other areas inside the mouth.
  • A development of velvety white, red, or white and red patches inside the mouth.
  • Sudden bleeding inside the mouth.
  • Numbness inside the mouth, loss of feeling, or pain and tenderness in any area of the face, mouth, or neck.
  • Persistent soreness on the face, neck, or mouth and continuous bleeding for more than 2 weeks.
  • Soreness in the back of the throat.
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue.
  • Hoarseness, chronic sore throat, or change in voice.
  • Sudden change in the position of your teeth.
  • Unusual weight loss.

Have queries or concern ?

    How to test mouth cancer orally?

    Although, oral screening of mouth cancer doesn’t require any special preparations. it is typically performed during a routine dental check-up. However, during an oral cancer screening exam, your dentist will look inside your mouth to check for red or white patches or mouth sores.

    Your dentist will also feel the tissues inside your mouth to check whether any kinds of lumps or other abnormalities are present. He will also examine your throat and neck for lumps.

    Although, some of the dentists use special examinations in addition to oral exams to screen for mouth cancer. However, it’s not clear if these tests offer any additional benefit over the oral exam.


    Oral cancer is a very common disease in our country. It is mostly associated with tobacco and alcohol consumption. It is an emerging form of cancer is that occurring in the base of the tongue and oropharynx where the disease is linked to HPV16 infection.

    However, all forms of oral cancer are easily detected by dentists or by a diagnosis of biopsy.

    About Author


    Dr. Shona Nag

    Sr Medical Oncologist and Director Oncology Dept
    Contact: +91 88888 22222
    Email – [email protected]

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