The survival rate among people with early-stage untreated mouth cancer is around 30% for five years, whereas the rate gets reduced to 12% for people with Stage 4 untreated mouth cancer.
Oral cancers can take years to grow. Most people find they have it after age 55. But more younger men are getting cancers linked to HPV.
Most oral cancers are a type called squamous cell carcinoma. These cancers tend to spread quickly.
Left untreated, oral cancer can spread throughout your mouth and throat to other areas of your head and neck. Approximately 63% of people with oral cavity cancer are alive five years after diagnosis.
Overall, 60% of people with oral cancer survive for 5 years. Oral cancer survival rates are significantly lower for Black men and women. Diagnosing oral cancer at an early stage significantly increases 5-year survival rates.
Oral cancer rates increase with age. The increase becomes more rapid after age 50 and peaks between ages 60 and 70.
Survival rates for oral and oropharyngeal cancer vary widely depending on the original location and the extent of the disease. In the United States, the overall 5-year survival rate for people with oral or oropharyngeal cancer is 67%. The 5-year survival rate for Black people is 51%, and for White people, it is 69%.
"There are two basic ways that oral cancers present in the mouth — as white patches or red patches," says Dr. Kain. "Red patches are a bit more concerning than white patches, but either needs to be evaluated if it doesn't go away after several weeks."
Mouth cancer tends not to cause any noticeable symptoms during the initial stages of the disease. This is why it's important to have regular dental check-ups, particularly if you are a smoker, a heavy drinker or a betel chewer, because a dentist may often be able to detect the condition during an examination.
Mouth cancer can often progress unnoticed and unless you regularly check your own mouth and also have a routine oral cancer screening at the dentist it is likely to go unnoticed until it has developed further.
Your dentist may be able to detect mouth cancer during your examination. You should have a dental check-up at least once every year. More frequent check-ups may be recommended if you have a history of tooth decay or gum disease.
Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer or cancer of the oral cavity, is often used to describe a number of cancers that start in the region of the mouth. These most commonly occur on the lips, tongue and floor of the mouth but can also start in the cheeks, gums, roof of the mouth, tonsils and salivary glands.
See Risk Factors for Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancers . Verrucous carcinoma is a rare type of squamous cell cancer that is most often found in the gums and cheeks. It's a low-grade (slow growing) cancer that hardly ever spreads to other parts of the body.
In the early stages, mouth cancer rarely causes any pain. Abnormal cell growth usually appears as flat patches.
Stages I and II oral cavity cancer
Most patients with stage I or II oral cavity cancers do well when treated with surgery and/or radiation therapy. Chemotherapy (chemo) given along with radiation (called chemoradiation) is another option. Both surgery and radiation work equally well in treating these cancers.
If the cancer has not spread beyond the mouth or the part of your throat at the back of your mouth (oropharynx) a complete cure may be possible using surgery alone. If the cancer is large or has spread to your neck, a combination of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy may be needed.
Oral cancer is fairly common. It can be cured if found and treated at an early stage (when it's small and has not spread). A healthcare provider or dentist often finds oral cancer in its early stages because the mouth and lips are easy to examine.
A biopsy is the only way to know for sure that oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer is present. A sample of tissue or cells is always needed to confirm a cancer diagnosis before treatment is started. Several types of biopsies may be used, depending on each case.
Oral cancer most often occurs in people over the age of 40 and affects more than twice as many men as women. Most oral cancers are related to tobacco use, alcohol use (or both), or infection by the human papilloma virus (HPV).
Oral cancer can be cured, but not in every case. Roughly 43 percent of all oral cancer patients die, many of them during their second or third bout with the disease. The late detection of oral cancer has pushed down the oral cancer survival rate.
Tobacco and alcohol use
Tobacco use is one of the strongest risk factors for head and neck cancers, including oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer. The risk for these cancers is much higher in people who smoke than in people who don't.
Oral cancer can be seen on dental x-rays. If you have symptoms of oral cancer, we will perform an exam of the oral cavity and lips to see if we find any red or white patches, swelling, or lumps.