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             Cancer Oral Cavity & Throat


Tobacco use is by far the most common risk factor for cancers of the mouth and throat. Both smoking and “smokeless” tobacco (snuff and chewing tobacco) increase the risk of developing Cancer in the mouth or throat.

All forms of smoking are linked to these Cancer, including cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. Tobacco smoke can cause Cancer anywhere in the mouth and throat as well as in the lungs, the bladder, and many other organs in the body. Pipe smoking is particularly linked with lesions of the lips, where the pipe comes in contact with the tissue.

Smokeless tobacco is linked with Cancer of the cheeks, gums, and inner surface of the lips. Cancers caused by smokeless tobacco use often begin as leukoplakia or erythroplakia.

Other risk factors for mouth and throat Cancer include the following:

Alcohol use: At least three quarters of people who have a mouth and throat Cancer consume alcohol frequently. People who drink alcohol frequently are 6 times more likely to develop one of these cancers. People who both drink alcohol and smoke often have a much higher risk than people who use only tobacco alone.

Ultraviolet light exposure: People who spend a lot of time in sunlight, such as those who work outdoors, are more likely to have cancer of the lip.

Chewing betel nut, a prevalent practice in India and other parts of South Asia, has been found to result in mucosa carcinoma of the cheeks. Mucosa carcinoma accounts for less than 10% of oral cavity Cancer in the United States but is the most common oral cavity cancer in India.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection: Several strains of HPV are associated with cancers of the cervix , vagina, vulva, and penis. The link between HPV and oral cancers is not known, but HPV infection is believed to increase the risk of oral cancers in some people.

These are risk factors that can be avoided in some cases. For example, you can choose to not smoke, thus lowering your risk of mouth and throat cancer. The following risk factors are outside of your control:

  • These are risk factors that can be avoided in some cases. For example, you can choose to not smoke, thus lowering your risk of mouth and throat cancer. The following risk factors are outside of your control:
  • Sex: Mouth and throat cancer is twice as common in men as in women. This may be related to the fact that more men than women use tobacco and alcohol.

The relationship between these risk factors and an individual's risk is not well understood. Many people who have no risk factors develop mouth and throat cancer. Conversely, many people with several risk factors do not. In large groups of people, these factors are linked with higher incidence of oropharyngeal cancers.


When to Seek Medical Care

If you have any of the symptoms of head and neck cancer, make an appointment to see your primary care provider or your dentist right away.


After surgery, you will see your surgeon, radiation oncologist, or both if you received chemotherapy. You will also follow-up with your medical oncologist.

You will also continue to see your medical oncologist according to a schedule he or she will recommend.

  • You may go through staging tests after completing treatment to determine how well the treatment worked and if you have any residual cancer.
  • Thereafter, at regular visits, you will undergo physical examination and testing to make sure the Cancer has not come back and that a new cancer has not appeared.
  • At least 5 years of follow-up care is recommended, and many people choose to continue these visits indefinitely.
  • Report any new symptoms to your oncologist immediately—Do not wait for the next visit.

Speech and swallowing therapy will continue for as long as needed to restore these functions.


The best way to prevent head and neck cancer is to avoid the risk factors.

  • If you use tobacco, quit. Do not substitute “smokeless” tobacco for smoking. Pipe and cigar smoking are not safer than cigarette smoking.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Do not use both tobacco and alcohol.
  • If you work outdoors or are otherwise frequently exposed to sunlight (ultraviolet radiation), protect yourself with clothing that blocks the sun. Apply sunscreen to your face (including a lip balm with sunscreen), and wear a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Avoid sources of oral irritation, such as ill-fitting dentures. If you wear dentures, remove and clean them every day. Have your dentist check their fit regularly.
  • Eat a balanced diet to avoid vitamin and other nutritional deficiencies. Make sure you eat  foods with plenty of vitamin A, including fruits, vegetables, and supplemented dairy products. Do not take very high doses of vitamin A supplements, which may actually be harmful.

Ask your dentist or primary care provider to check your oral cavity and pharynx regularly to look for precancerous lesions and other abnormalities. Report any symptoms such as persistent pain, hoarseness, bleeding , or difficulty swallowing.


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