Mouth (oral) cancer

Mouth cancer starts in the mouth. It can also spread to lymph nodes in the neck.

 

What is mouth cancer?

Mouth cancer starts in the mouth. It can also spread to lymph nodes in the neck. It’s more common in men than women, and most mouth cancers affect people aged 50-74. Younger people can also get it, but it’s more likely if they have the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Mouth cancer can affect any part of the mouth including:

  • Behind the wisdom teeth
  • Lips (outer side)
  • Oropharynx – the back part of the tongue, tonsils, soft roof of the mouth (soft palate) and back of the throat (oropharyngeal cancer)
  • Roof (hard palate) or floor of the mouth
  • The front of the tongue
  • The glands that produce saliva
  • The gums
  • The skin inside the lips and cheeks

Mouth cancer is named after the type of cell where it begins. The most common is squamous cell carcinoma. Other, rarer, types include:

  • Adenocarcinomas – start in the salivary glands
  • Lymphomas – develop from cells usually found in lymph glands
  • Oral malignant melanomas – begin in the cells that make skin pigment
  • Sarcomas – start in the bone, cartilage, muscle or other cells

 

Causes of mouth cancer

You are more likely to have mouth cancer if you:

  • Smoke
  • Drink a lot of alcohol
  • Have the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes genital warts

Symptoms of mouth cancer

Having a mouth ulcer that doesn’t heal

Lumps in your mouth

Lumps in your neck

Having unexplained loose teeth

Numb lips or tongue

Red or white patches inside your mouth or on your tongue

All these symptoms may be caused by other less harmful conditions. But if you’re worried, it’s a good idea to get checked out by your doctor.

Tests and diagnosis

After discussing your symptoms, your doctor will examine you and may arrange for you to have some tests. In most cases, this involves having a biopsy where a small sample of tissue is removed for testing. You may also need scans, such as x-rays (orthopantogram), CT of the chest, MRI scan of the head and neck area or PET-CT scan.

Treatments we offer

Oral cancer treatments may involve surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.

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Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

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Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.

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Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

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Meet our doctors

Our-doctors

Everything we do is focused on designing better care for our patients. With a network of 12 specialist oncology treatment centres across the UK, we provide the most up-to-date treatments and technology as standard.

We attract and retain some of the most experienced doctors in the country, who all have a passion for improving patient outcomes and specialise in the treatment of different types of cancer.

Meet our doctors

Search for a centre near you

Birmingham

Little Aston Hall Drive, Sutton Coldfield, B74 3BF

+44 (0)121 353 3055

Bristol

300 Park Avenue, Aztec West, Bristol, BS32 4SY

01454 456500

Chelmsford

Springfield Cancer Centre, Lawn Lane, Chelmsford, CM1 7GU

+44 (0)1245 987 901

Cromwell Hospital

164-178 Cromwell Rd, Kensington, London SW5 0TU, UK

020 7460 5626

Elstree

Unit 710, Centennial Park, Centennial Avenue, Elstree, Borehamwood, WD6 3SZ

+44 (0)208 236 9040

Guildford

BMI St Martha Oncology Centre, 46 Harvey Road, Guildford, GU1 3LX

+44 (0)1483 806 000

Maidstone

17 Kings Hill Avenue, Kings Hill, West Malling, ME19 4UA

+44 (0)1732 207 000

Milton Keynes

Sunrise Parkway, Linford Wood East, Milton Keynes, MK14 6LS

+44 (0)1908 467 700

Newmarket

The Oaks, Fordham Road, Newmarket, CB8 7XN

+44 (0)1223 907 600

Nottingham

The Park Centre for oncology, Sherwood Lodge Drive, Burntstump Country Park, Nottingham, NG5 8RX

+44 (0)115 966 2250

Oxford

Sandy Lane West, Peters Way, Oxford, OX4 6LB

+44 (0)1865 237 700

Portsmouth

Bartons Road, Havant, PO9 5NA

+44 (0)23 9248 4992

Southampton

Spire Hospital, Chalybeate Close, Southampton, SO16 6UY

+44 (0)238 076 4961

Windsor

69 Alma Road, Windsor, SL4 3HD

+44 (0)1753 418 444