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Oral cancer

The information on this page was reviewed and approved by
Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science at CTCA.

This page was updated on July 14, 2021.

Oral cancer requires expert care.
We’re here to help.

Oral cancer forms in the mouth, including on the lips, the inside lining of the lips and cheeks, the teeth, the gums, the tongue, the bottom of the mouth and the roof of the mouth. Symptoms of oral cancer often mimic symptoms of less serious conditions, such as a mouth sore that won’t go away, so knowing the signs of the disease is important. Knowing risk factors is also vital. Most patients with this disease use tobacco and/or alcohol.

Treatment typically depends on where in the mouth the cancer originated. Because oral cancer and its treatments often affect the patient’s physical appearance and ability to eat and perform other everyday activities, surgical reconstructive techniques may be an option.

Explore this section to learn more about oral cancer—how it develops, what causes it, and how it's treated.

What you should know after an oral cancer diagnosis

Treatment options

male doctor in scrubs speaking to female patient on MRI scan table

The type of treatment your doctor recommends for oral cancer depends on where the tumor is located and how far the cancer has spread. Common treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery and targeted therapy.

Chemotherapy is typically reserved for patients whose cancer has metastasized to the bones or elsewhere in the body.

Radiation therapy
Two primary types of radiation therapy are used to treat oral cancer: external beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy.

Early-stage disease is typically treated with surgery.

Targeted therapy
Certain targeted therapy drugs that kill tumor cells and slow down disease growth may be a treatment option for some patients.

Learn more about treatments for oral cancer

Supportive care

Treatment for oral cancer may cause side effects that interfere with treatment and your ability to stay nourished. For example, it may be necessary to use a feeding tube while undergoing treatment. Certain treatments also may affect your energy level and ability to perform everyday tasks. Our supportive care clinicians help you manage these side effects, so you are better able to fight the disease and get back to your life. Supportive care therapies for oral cancer patients may include:


​Nutritional support

Every patient has the option of meeting with a registered dietitian.


​Pain management

Pain management is a branch of medicine focused on reducing pain and improving quality of life through an integrative approach to care.


​Oncology rehabilitation

​Oncology rehabilitation includes a wide range of therapies designed to help you build strength and endurance.

Margery Gadd

Margery G.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

"I am extremely thankful for the support and love my family has given me. My husband, John, has been with me at every visit to CTCA. My children have also been supportive through this journey. I have so much to live for, and am planning to be around for a very long time."


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