Cancer of the oral cavity

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What is cancer of the mouth (oral cavity)?

Oral cavity cancer is a member of the family of head and neck cancers, also known as upper aerodigestive tract cancers. It is characterized by the appearance, development and spread of abnormal cells in the oral cavity. It mainly affects the following regions and structures:

  • The inside of the mouth, including the tongue, the mucous membrane that lines the inside of the cheeks, the buccal floor (under the tongue), the buccal ceiling (hard palate) and the soft palate;
  • The gums;
  • The upper and lower lips;
  • The salivary glands;
  • The tonsils;
  • The throat or pharynx.

Signs and symptoms of oral cancer

It is important to see your dentist promptly if you notice a change in the appearance of your mouth, whether it is a change in the size, colour or texture of the tissues or if new sensations appear, as described below. These changes may hide abnormal cell growth that can lead to cancer. That being said, these signs and symptoms do not necessarily indicate the presence of cancer, especially if they are transient, but it is better to consult if they last more than two weeks.

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