Pacific Cancer Programs

Oral Cancer

Oral Cancer Information for:


Program Managers and Coalition Members

The Community

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Cancer of the Oral Cavity and Pharynx - Each year, more than 30,000 new cases of oral and pharyngeal cancer are diagnosed and over 8,000 deaths due to oral cancer occur. The 5-year survival rate for these cancers is only about 50 percent. Mortality from oral cancer is nearly twice as high in African-American males as it is in whites. Methods used to treat oral cancers (surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy) are disfiguring and costly. Avoiding high-risk behaviors, that include cigarette, cigar or pipe smoking, use of smokeless tobacco, and excessive use of alcohol are critical in preventing oral cancers. Early detection is key to increasing the survival rate for these cancers.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer?

  • A mouth sore that fails to heal or that bleeds easily
  • A white or red patch in the mouth that will not go away
  • A lump, thickening or soreness in the mouth, throat, or tongue
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing food

What Factors Put Me at Risk of Developing Oral Cancer?

  • Tobacco use
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Viral infections
  • Immunodeficiency
  • Poor nutrition
  • Excessive exposure to ultraviolet light (lip cancer)
  • Certain occupational exposures

How is Oral Cancer Detected?

Most early signs of oral cancer are painless and are difficult to detect without a thorough head and neck examination by a dental or medical professional. A thorough head and neck examination should include a visual inspection and finger exploration of the tongue, floor of the mouth (under the tongue), palate (roof of the mouth), salivary glands, lymph nodes, insides of the cheek, and the back of the throat. The tongue should be moved to allow for the inspection of its sides and base. Your dental or medical provider should perform routine head and neck examinations, especially if you use tobacco or excessive amounts of alcohol.

The information provided on this web page is general background information and should not be construed as CDC recommended practice or guidelines, except where official recommendation or guideline documents are specifically mentioned.

General Resources

Online Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

More details, including medically graphic images, can be found at the CDC website.

  • Visit the CDC website.

National Cancer Institute (NCI)

NCI has up-to-date information for patients and practitioners about oral cancer.

  • Visit the NCI website.

“What You Need To Know About™ Oral Cancer”

This resource helps you to learn oral cancer symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and questions to ask your health care provider. NCI 2006, 53 pages.

American Cancer Society (ACS)

ACS is the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service.

  • Visit the ACS website.

MedlinePlus - Oral Cancer

MedlinePlus will direct you to information to help answer health questions. MedlinePlus brings together authoritative information from NLM, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other government agencies and health-related organizations. MedlinePlus also has extensive information about drugs, an illustrated medical encyclopedia, interactive patient tutorials, and latest health news. Please make sure you check the MedlinePlus online for cervical cancer with an extensive, constantly updated resource list.

Printed Materials to Download

South Pacific Comission (SPC) Fact Sheets: Tobacco and Betel Nut

SPC offers quick 2 to 4 page overviews on key issues. Kept in simple black and white, SPC Fact Sheets can be printed and used as handouts, student resources, or photocopied for distribution.

  • Download SPC Fact Sheet No. 15: Tobacco & Betel Nut: (pdf 396 KB).

CDC Fact Sheet - Betel Quid with Tobacco (Gutka)

ASCO Answers: Oral Cancer - ASCO Answers is a series of fact sheets that provides an introduction to a specific type of cancer. Each fact sheet is a PDF that includes an overview of what the cancer is, an illustration of where the cancer starts, how it is treated, terms to know, and questions to ask the doctor.

  • Visit the ASCO Answers website.
  • Download the PDF file (American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2008. 2 pages): (pdf 272 KB).

International Agency for Reseach on Cancer

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Funding for this website was made possible by a cooperative agreement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, through the following:
Pacific CEED, award #: 5U58DP000976,USAPI Community Health Interventions Project (CHIP), award #: 1U58DP005810,
Pacific Regional Central Cancer Registry, award #: 5U58DP003906; Regional Comprehensive Cancer Control Program, award #: U55/CCU923887.
The views expressed on this site do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services;
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Funding Sources: PRCCR: #: 5U58DP003906  | Pacific REACH: #: 1U58DP005810 | RCCC: #: U55/CCU923887 

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