Oral cancer is cancer that develops in the tissues of the mouth or throat. It belongs to a larger group of cancers called head and neck cancers. Most develop in the squamous cells found in your mouth, tongue, and lips.


Parts of the oral cavity (mouth) are: Lips, Salivary glands (glands that make saliva), Roof of your mouth (hard palate), Back of your mouth (soft palate and uvula), Floor of your mouth (area under the tongue), Gums and teeth, Tongue, Tonsils. Cancer of the oral cavity can occur in any of the parts of the mouth.

Risk Factors

Tobacco: Tobacco use accounts for majority of oral cancers. Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, bidis, hookahs; chewing tobacco; and snuff cause oral cancer. Heavy smokers who use tobacco for a long time are most at risk. The risk increases manifold even in passive smokers. It is very common in people who keep the tobacco between the lip and gum for the whole day or night causing severe damage to the skin of the inside of the lip and gum causing cancer.
Alcohol: People who drink alcohol are at increased risk of oral cancer. The risk increases if the person also smokes.
Sun: Cancer of the lip can be caused by exposure to the sun. Using sunscreen or can block the sun’s harmful rays. The risk of cancer of the lip increases if the person also smokes.


Patches inside mouth or on lips that are white, a mixture of red and white, or red.
A sore on lip or in mouth that won’t heal
Bleeding in mouth
Loose teeth
Difficulty or pain when swallowing
Difficulty wearing dentures
A lump in your neck
An earache
Most often, these symptoms do not mean cancer but a doctor/dentist should be consulted for correct diagnosis.


Stop Tobacco use in any form including passive smoking
Limit alcohol consumption
Avoid excessive sun exposure
Maintain healthy weight, diet and regular exercise
Keep good oral hygiene
Go for regular oral (mouth) check-ups to doctor/dentist specially if you are a smoker/tobacco user or in any other high risk groups

Oral Self Examination

It should be done in front of the mirror.
Throat and neck: Press gently on both sides of your neck and under the jaw. Leaning neck forward feel the base of your skull, holding the Adams Apple between thumb and forefinger, swallow and check the windpipe
Lips: pull the upper and lower lip put and feel the lips with index finger and thumb
Gums: lift the lips to look at and feel the gums for lumps and bumps
Tongue: stick out the tongue looking at both sides for sores/white/red patches
Cheeks: stretch out your cheeks using index finger and thumb for swelling/white/red patches
Roof of the mouth: using index finger, press gently on the roof of the mouth for any swelling
Floor of the mouth: point the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth and feel the floor with your finger.
Tonsils and throat: open the mouth wide and check the back of the mouth (in front of the mirror) for any swelling of the tonsils.