Mouth cancer refers to cancer that develops in any of the parts that make up the mouth. Mouth cancer can occur on the:
Inside lining of the cheeks
Roof of the mouth
Floor of the mouth
Cancer that occurs on the inside of the mouth is sometimes called oral cancer or oral cavity cancer.
Mouth cancer occurs when cells on your lips or in your mouth develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. These mutations allow cancer cells to grow and divide when healthy cells would die. The accumulating mouth cancer cells can form a tumor. With time they may spread to other areas of the mouth and on to other areas of the head and neck or other parts of the body.
Mouth cancers most 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.
Treatment for mouth cancer depends on your cancer’s location and stage, as well as your overall health and personal preferences. You may have just one type of treatment, or you may undergo a combination of cancer treatments. Discuss your options with your doctor. They include
There’s no proven way to prevent mouth cancer. However, you can reduce your risk of mouth cancer if you:
Stop using tobacco or don’t start. If you use tobacco, stop. If you don’t use tobacco, don’t start. Using tobacco, whether smoked or chewed, exposes the cells in your mouth to dangerous cancer-causing chemicals.
Drink alcohol only in moderation, if at all. Chronic excessive alcohol use can irritate the cells in your mouth, making them vulnerable to mouth cancer. If you choose to drink alcohol, limit your alcohol intake.
Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Choose a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. The vitamins and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables may help reduce your risk of mouth cancer.
Avoid excessive sun exposure to your lips. Protect the skin on your lips from the sun by staying in the shade when possible. Wear a broad-brimmed hat that effectively shades your entire face, including your mouth. Apply a sunscreen lip product as part of your routine sun protection regimen.
See your dentist regularly. As part of a routine dental exam, ask your dentist to inspect your entire mouth for abnormal areas that may indicate mouth cancer or precancerous changes.