Lip, Oral Cavity & Oropharyngeal Cancer: Patient Education

Cancer Facts

According to the American Cancer Society:

  • These cancers are more than twice as common in men as in women, and are as common in blacks as in whites.
  • The rate of new cases of this disease has been dropping overall in the past 30 years. However, there has been a recent rise in cases of oral cavity cancer in men under the age of 50 related to infection with human papilloma virus.
  • The death rate for these cancers has been decreasing since the late 1970s.
  • Oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers occur most commonly in the following sites:
    • The tongue (about 25 percent)
    • The tonsils (about 10 to 15 percent)
    • The lip (about 10 to 15 percent)
    • The minor salivary glands (about 10 to 15 percent)
    • The rest are found in the gums, the floor of the mouth and other sites.

Lip & Oral Cavity Cancer

Oral cancer is a group of malignant cells that starts in your mouth, also called your oral cavity.

Your oral cavity includes:

  • Lips
  • Inside lining of your lips
  • Cheeks
  • Gums
  • Front part of your tongue
  • Floor of your mouth
  • Bony part of the roof of your mouth (hard palate)

Oropharyngeal Cancer

Oropharyngeal cancer is a group of malignant cells that starts in the upper part of your throat right behind your mouth, called the oropharynx.

Oropharyngeal cancer is also called throat cancer. The oropharynx also includes:

  • The back part of your tongue
  • The back part of the roof of your mouth (soft palate)
  • Tonsils
  • Side and back wall of your throat

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Type of Lip, Oral Cavity & Oropharyngeal Cancer

Your oral cavity and your oropharynx are made up of different kinds of cells; the different cells give rise to different kinds of cancers. Different kinds of cancers require different treatments and have different prognoses.

However, the majority of lip, oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers are squamous cell carcinomas:

  • About 90 percent of lip, oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers
  • Begin in the lining of the mouth and throat
  • Tend to spread quickly and require immediate treatment

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