Survival statistics for oral cancer

Survival statistics for oral cancer are very general estimates and must be interpreted very carefully. Because these statistics are based on the experience of groups of people, they cannot be used to predict a particular person’s chances of survival.

There are many different ways to measure and report cancer survival statistics. Your doctor can explain the statistics for oral cancer and what they mean to you.

Net survival

Net survival represents the probability of surviving cancer in the absence of other causes of death. It is used to give an estimate of the percentage of people who will survive their cancer.

A net survival statistic for oral (mouth) cancer not reported separately but is included in the general category head and neck cancer. This broad category includes oral cancer and similar cancers together. So the number does not necessarily show the net survival specifically for oral cancer.

In Canada, the 5-year net survival for head and neck cancer is 64%. This means about 64% of people diagnosed with head and neck cancer will survive for at least 5 years.

Survival by stage of tumour

Survival varies with each stage of oral cancer. Generally, the earlier oral cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome.

There are effective treatments available for oral cancer and it often responds well to cancer treatment. But smoking during radiation therapy reduces the effectiveness of treatment and lowers survival rates compared to people who stop smoking or don’t smoke.

Survival by stage and location of oral cancer is reported as 5-year relative survival. Relative survival looks at how likely people with cancer are to survive after their diagnosis compared to people in the general population who do not have cancer, but who share similar characteristics (such as age and sex).

There are no specific Canadian statistics available for the different stages and locations of oral cancer. The following information comes from a variety of sources. It may include statistics from other countries that are likely to have similar outcomes as in Canada.


5-year relative survival by stage and tumour site




Floor of mouth

Early stage or localized (stage 1 or 2)




Locally advanced or regional (stage 3, 4A or 4B)




Metastatic (stage 4C)




Questions about survival

Talk to your doctor about your prognosis. A prognosis depends on many factors, including:

  • your health history
  • the type of cancer
  • the stage
  • certain characteristics of the cancer
  • the treatments chosen
  • how the cancer responds to treatment

Only a doctor familiar with these factors can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer. 2016.
  • Canadian Cancer Statistics Advisory Committee . Canadian Cancer Statistics 2019 . Toronto, ON : Canadian Cancer Society ; 2019 :
  • Koch WM, Stafford E, Chung C, Quon H . Cancer of the oral cavity. Harrison LB, Sessions RB, Kies MS. Head and Neck Cancer: A Multidisciplinary Approach. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014: 16A:335-356.
  • Canadian Cancer Statistics Advisory Committee. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2021. Canadian Cancer Society; 2021.

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

We do our best to make sure that the information we provide is accurate and reliable but cannot guarantee that it is error-free or complete.

The Canadian Cancer Society is not responsible for the quality of the information or services provided by other organizations and mentioned on, nor do we endorse any service, product, treatment or therapy.

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