Mask Group 43

Medically Reviewed by Lisa A. Turner, DDS, MSD

Oral cancer is an abnormal growth or a sore that appears in the mouth and does not disappear. Cancer is a result of changes in cell DNA. These changes tell the cell to continue growing and dividing when healthy cells die. Accumulation of these abnormal cells forms a tumor. Oral cancer can occur in:

  • Lips
  • Tongue
  • Cheeks
  • The floor of the mouth
  • Hard and soft palate
  • Sinus
  • Pharynx

Signs and Symptoms

Most oral cancers spread to lymph nodes before their discovery. It is essential to have a regular dental checkup or monthly self-examinations. Signs and symptoms include:

  • A sore on the mouth that is not healing
  • A growth or lump inside your mouth
  • A mouth pain  
  • Painful tongue
  • Ear pain
  • A pain when swallowing
  • A patch inside your mouth that may appear red or white.

Risk Factors                    

Risk factors often influence the development of oral cancer, but they do not directly cause the cancer. Knowledge of risk factors will help you make informed lifestyle choices. The risk factors include:

  • Gender: men are at a higher risk of developing it than women.
  • Age: although it may affect younger people, it is more common in older people over 55 years of age.
  • Tobacco use: this includes smoking and chewing smokeless tobacco.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Poor nutrition
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Excessive exposure to the sun
  • Genetics

Oral Cancer Screening

Oral cancer is easier to treat when it’s detected early. When you visit Venice Periodontics and Implant Dentistry, Dr. Lisa Turner will:

  • Examine face, throat and neck for abnormalities in the glands or unusual bumps
  • Look inside the mouth and the lining of the cheeks for sores or red patches that may bleed easily and have difficulty healing
  • Look for leukoplakia, a hardened white or gray lesion that can appear inside the mouth and can be cancerous
  • Identify any areas of thickening tissue in the mouth, under the tongue, on the palate or in the throat

If there are any indications that an abnormality has been detected, she will discuss a plan of action and the treatment options that are right for you.

Your dentist might perform more tests to see if cancer has spread to other tissues or other parts of the body. Such tests include:

  • X-rays
  • CT scan
  • PET scan
  • MRI
  • Endoscopy


The treatment of oral cancer is dependent on its stage. Your doctor may suggest surgery to remove the tumor for early-stage cancer, followed by targeted radiation therapy to clear any remaining cancer cells.

Other treatments include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted drug therapy, and proper nutrition.

Final Thoughts

It is important to catch oral cancer early before it worsens or spreads. Ask your dentist if they are able to perform an oral cancer screening, or schedule an appointment at Venice Periodontics and Implant Dentistry. Call 941-497-5591.