What are the types of oral cavity cancer?

There are four main types of oral cavity cancer:

Tongue cancer occurs in the front two-thirds of the tongue. The most common type of tongue cancer is called squamous cell carcinoma (squamous cells are found in many of the body’s tissues, including the skin and respiratory tract.) As with many cancers, early detection and diagnosis often lead to more treatment options and better outcomes.

Lip cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancerous) cells form on or in the lips. Most lip cancers start in squamous cells and may spread into deeper tissues. Patients with lip cancer may notice leukoplakias, which are abnormal patches of white tissue, or other types of sores on the lips that will not heal. Sometimes lip cancer does not present any symptoms at all, although it may be found during a routine dental exam.

Gum cancer is often mistaken for gingivitis because it begins in the upper or lower gums. Eventually lesions or tumors form, and dentists typically are the first to notice signs of gum cancer during routine dental examinations. Gum cancers are highly curable when detected and diagnosed early.

Jaw cancer typically originates in the jawbones (called primary jaw cancer), though cancers from other tissues can spread to the jaw (called secondary jaw cancer). Both primary and secondary jaw cancers can cause bone destruction because of tumor growth.

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