Oral cancer

What is oral cancer?

Oral cavity cancer starts in cells of the mouth. Learn about symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and risks in our guide to oral cancer.

Risk factors for oral cancer

Risk factors for oral cavity cancer include tobacco, alcohol, betel quid, HPV and precancerous conditions. Learn about oral cavity cancer risk.

Symptoms of oral cancer

Symptoms of oral cavity cancer include white or red patches or a sore that doesn’t heal on the lip or in the mouth. Learn about oral cavity cancer symptoms.

Diagnosis of oral cancer

Tests to diagnose oral cavity cancer, such as endoscopy, are done when symptoms or a routine exam suggests a problem. Learn about diagnosing oral cancer.

Grading oral cancer

Grading is a way of classifying oral cavity cancer cells based on their appearance and behaviour when viewed under a microscope. To find out the grade of a tumour, the biopsy sample is examined under a microscope. A grade is given based on how the cancer cells look and behave compared with normal cells.

Stages of oral cancer

Staging is a way of describing or classifying a cancer based on the extent of cancer in the body. The most common staging system for oral cavity cancer is the TNM system. The International Union Against Cancer (UICC) uses the TNM system to describe the extent of many solid tumour cancers.

If oral cancer spreads

Cancer cells have the potential to spread from the oral cavity to other parts of the body where they can grow into new tumours. This process is called metastasis. The tumours are also called metastasis (singular) or metastases (plural). Metastases are also called secondary tumours.

Prognosis and survival for oral cancer

People with oral cavity cancer may have questions about their prognosis and survival. Prognosis and survival depend on many factors. Only a doctor familiar with a person’s medical history, type of cancer, stage, characteristics of the cancer, treatments chosen and response to treatment can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.

Treatments for oral cancer

Treatments for oral cavity cancer include surgery and radiation. Learn about treatment plans and options for oral cavity cancer.

Supportive care for oral cancer

Supportive care helps people meet the physical, practical, emotional and spiritual challenges of oral cavity cancer. It is an important part of cancer care. There are many programs and services available to help meet the needs and improve the quality of life of people living with cancer and their loved ones, especially after treatment has ended.

Research in head and neck cancer

Learn more about head and neck cancer research including reducing risk, diagnosis and prognosis, treatment and supportive care.

Oral cavity cancer statistics

Oral cavity cancer includes cancers of the lip, cheek and tongue. Learn about Canadian statistics for these cancers.