Mouth Cancer : Stages, Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

Sonali Kapoor

, Health A2Z

Mouth cancer can appear anywhere in the mouth, on the surface of the tongue, lips, inside the cheek, in the gums, in the roof and floor of the mouth, in the tonsils, and in the salivary glands. Cancer is one of the major topics which people want to know more about it because it is one of the serious health issues which is growing fast, and a common cause of worry to all.


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What is Mouth Cancer?


Mouth cancer occurs on the inside of the mouth, and its sometimes called oral cancer or oral cavity cancer. There are several types of cancers grouped in a category called head and neck cancers like nose, throat and mouth. All these head and neck cancers are often treated similarly.


What are the Stages of Mouth Cancer?


The mouth cancer can be categorized in these 4 stages due to there severity:


Stage 1 –  In this stage tumor is under 1 inch across and not reached nearby lymph nodes.


Stage 2 – In this stage, the tumor is about 1 to 2 inches and not reached nearby lymph nodes.


Stage 3 –  In this stage, the tumor is over 2 inches across but not spread, or it spread to one nearby lymph node on the same side of the neck as the tumor.


Stage 4 –  In this stage, tumor affects tissues around the mouth, lips, and possibly nearby lymph nodes; or it has spread to the rest of the body.


What are the Symptoms of Mouth Cancer?


These are the most common symptoms of mouth cancer:


  • Patches on the lining of the mouth usually-red and white in color


  • Mouth ulcers or tongue


  • Swelling that persists for over 3 weeks


  • A lump


  • Pain when swallowing


  • Loose teeth with no apparent reason


  • Poorly fitting dentures


  • Jaw pain or stiffness



  • A sensation that something is stuck in the throat


  • Painful tongue


  • Pain in the neck or ear that does not go away


What are the Causes of Mouth Cancer?


These are some causes of oral cancer:


Mouth cancers form when the cells on the lips or in the mouth develop changes in their DNA. A DNA contains the instructions that tell a cell what to do. The mutations changes tell the cells to continue growing and dividing when healthy cells would die.


Abnormal cells can form a tumor. It spread inside the mouth and on to other areas of the head and neck or other parts of the body.


Mouth cancers commonly begin in the flat, thin cells (squamous cells) that line your lips and the inside of your mouth. Most oral cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.


What are the Risk Factors of Mouth Cancer?


There are a few risk factors of oral cancer such as:


1. Tobacco-like – Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, and snuff


2. Heavy alcohol usage


3. Excessive sun exposure to your lips


4. A sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus (HPV)


5. A weakened immune system


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What is the Prevention of Mouth Cancer?


There is some prevention of oral cancer:


1. Stop Using Tobacco


Consuming tobacco, whether smoked or chewed, exposes the cells in your mouth to dangerous cancer-causing chemicals.


2. Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation


Excess alcohol can irritate the cells in your mouth, making them vulnerable to mouth cancer. If you like to drink alcohol, drink in moderation. For adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.


3. Avoid Excessive Sun Exposure to Your Lips


Protect your lips from the sun by staying in the shade when possible. Wear a broad hat which effectively covers your entire face, including your mouth. Apply a sunscreen lip balm as part of your routine sun protection regimen.


4. See Your Dentist Regularly:


As routine dental checkup, ask your dentist to inspect your entire mouth for abnormal areas that may indicate mouth cancer or precancerous changes.


What is the Treatment for Mouth Cancer?


Treatment for mouth cancer depends on your cancer’s location and stage, as well as your health status. Treatment options can be surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.


Surgery to Remove the Tumor


Your doctor cut away the tumor and a margin of healthy tissue which surrounds it to ensure all of the cancer cells have been removed. Small cancers may be removed through minor surgery. But the Large tumors require more-extensive procedures.


Surgery to Remove Cancer which Spread to the Neck


If the cancer cells spread to the lymph nodes in your neck or if there’s a high risk that this has happened based on the size or depth of your cancer, your surgeon suggests a procedure to remove lymph nodes and related tissue in your neck (neck dissection). Neck dissection removes any cancer cells which spread to your lymph nodes.


Surgery to Reconstruct the Mouth


After surgery to remove your cancer, your surgeon recommends reconstructive surgery to rebuild your mouth to help you regain the ability to talk and eat. Your surgeon transplant grafts of skin, muscle or bone from other parts of your body to reconstruct your mouth. Dental implants also may be used to replace your natural teeth.


Radiation Therapy


Radiation therapy uses high-energy such as X-rays and protons, to kill cancer cells. It is most often delivered from a machine outside of your body (external beam radiation), though it can also come from radioactive seeds and wires placed near your cancer.





Chemotherapy is a treatment which uses chemicals to kill cancer cells. These drugs can be given alone, in combination with other chemotherapy drugs. Chemotherapy increases the effectiveness of radiation therapy, so the two are often combined.




As today we have talked about Mouth cancer Its stages, symptoms, causes, risk factors, prevention, and treatment as well. The best and effective way to cure your cancer is surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and less intake of tobacco and alcohol.


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