Oral cancer is cancer that develops inside the mouth, usually on the surface of the tongue, the lips or the gums. In rare cases, it can also develop in the salivary glands, or in the tonsils.
How common is oral cancer?
Approximately 2,700 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed every year in England and Wales. The condition is more common in men than in women, and most cases develop in people who are 40 years of age, or over. Symptoms of oral cancer include a persistent lump or sore on the lip or in the mouth, pain in the neck and/or a lump in the neck. Oral cancer can have many causes, but the majority of cases are caused by tobacco, including smoking cigars, pipes and chewing tobacco, and excessive alcohol consumption. Both tobacco and alcohol can damage the tissue inside the mouth, triggering cell changes that can lead to cancer. Oral cancer can be cured if it is detected early enough using a combination of radiotherapy and surgery. However, many people only realise that they have oral cancer once it has progressed to an advanced state, making it more difficult to treat. The best way to prevent oral cancer is to avoid smoking or chewing tobacco, to drink alcohol in moderation, and to eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.