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Types of Oral Cancer along with Types by Area

pexels-shiny-diamond-3762440 types of oral cancer

Last updated 06/11/2022

Your mouth is made of epithelium tissue. And the teeth and tongue are organs. Types of oral cancer.

The oral cavity is a very important part of your anatomy. It is the beginning of your digestive and respiratory systems. However, cancer can form in any of these areas.

Any changes you notice should be brought to the attention of your dentist or doctor. Most importantly, looking into your mouth regularly will aid in detecting any changes early.

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Types of Oral Cancer

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Over 90 percent of oral cancers develop in the squamous cells of the oral cavity. The throat and mouth are normally lined with these cells. Furthermore, squamous cell carcinoma occurs because some squamous cells mutate and change to abnormal.

Verrucous Carcinoma

Verrucous carcinoma accounts for around 5 percent of all cavity growths. It also consists of squamous cells and is a very slow growing cancer. Therefore, this form rarely spreads to other locations of the body. But it could invade nearby tissue.

Minor Salivary Gland Carcinomas

Several types of oral cancer are included in this disease. It can present on the minor salivary glands that are found throughout the lining of the mouth and throat. To sum up, these are adenoid cystic carcinoma, mucoepidermoid carcinoma and polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma.


Lymphomas are the oral cancers that occur in the lymph tissue. This is part of your immune system. For example, your tonsils and the base of your tongue both have lymphoid tissue.

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Types of Oral Cancer by Area

Lip Cancer

Lip cancer is the most common type of oral cancer. This occurs mainly in men. Furthermore, it’s separated into two kinds: squamous cell and basal cell.

That is to say, most often lip cancer forms in the squamous cells. These are the thin, flat cells lining your lips and mouth.

Symptoms of Lip Cancer

The symptoms of lip cancer can be similar to other forms of oral cancer. So, often they are thought to be a persistent cold or toothache.

Additional symptoms can be:

  • A lip lesion, blister or lump that doesn’t heal
  • Constant lip pain or lip numbness
  • Lump or thickening on the lip
  • Having a discolored white or red lip patch
  • Neck mass or growth

Lip Cancer Risk Factors

Risk factors for Lip Cancer are:

  • Smoking or use of tobacco products
  • Excessive drinking of alcohol
  • Sun exposure or UV rays from tanning beds

Diagnosing Lip Cancer

Lip cancer is diagnosed with a physical exam for any abnormalities on the lips. Exfoliative cytology involves taking a swab or gently scraping the cells from that area. Secondly, observing the cells under a microscope.

Treating Lip Cancer

Firstly, surgery is usually the treatment option for lip cancer when detected at an early stage. It can also be included with treatment when cancer is more advanced.

In addition, other choses could be:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted drug therapy
  • As well as a combination of therapies

When treating the lip cancer, the aim is to have as little damage of healthy tissue as possible. This leads to fewer side effects. Above all, treatment is according to the size, area and stage of the lip cancer.

Jaw (Mandibular) Cancer

Rarely, does cancer begin in the jaw. But most often, cysts or growths can develop in the jaw area known as odontogenic tumors. These tumors are benign (noncancerous).

The Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery say malignant tumors number somewhere between 1 percent and 6 percent of total odontogenic tumors. Some cancerous jaw tumors can develop quickly and be painful with tingling.

Cancerous odontogenic tumors are:

  • Ameloblastic carcinoma
  • Primary intraosseous carcinoma
  • Sclerosing odontogenic carcinoma
  • Clear cell odontogenic carcinoma
  • Ghost cell odontogenic carcinoma
  • Odontogenic carcinosarcoma
  • Odontogenic sarcomas

Usually, the majority of these malignant tumors occur in the back of your mouth. In other words, close to the molars on the lower jaw (mandible). However, some can develop on the upper jaw (maxilla).

Some forms of these tumors, like clear cell odontogenic carcinoma, may not have painful symptoms at all.

Jaw Cancer Symptoms

Jaw cancer signs and symptoms can vary according to the stage. In short, the early stages can have no symptoms, or you can begin to have pain sensation.

After that, your jaw cancer can cause these symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Jaw spasms
  • Problems with speech
  • Bone damage

Diagnosing Jaw Cancer

Biopsy is done which involves taking a sample of the tumor cells to observe under a microscope. An imaging test, like x-rays are used to view the extent of cancer spread inside the jaw.

Treatments for Jaw Cancer

Treatment could be according to the kind of tumor. However, surgery is often the first option. For some patients, chemotherapy or radiation therapy could be recommended in addition to surgery. Because these are rare tumors, choses for treatment may not be regiment.

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Palate, Cheek and Other Mouth Cancers

Mouth cancer (oral cancer) can present in any area of the mouth. This would be:

  • Lips
  • Tongue
  • Gums
  • Roof of the mouth
  • Cheeks
  • Uvula

Mouth Cancer Symptoms

Similarly, mouth cancer symptoms are associated with other types of oral cancer. They are usually mistaken for an ongoing cold or sore in the mouth that won’t vanish.

In addition, these could be included:

  • Continuing tongue and/or jaw pain
  • Having a lump or thickening area inside the mouth
  • A white or red patch appearing on gums, tongue, tonsil or lining of the mouth
  • Issues swallowing or chewing
  • Problems moving the jaw or tongue

Risk factors are similar with these forms as other oral cancers. These are:

  • Use of tobacco products and alcohol
  • Infection of human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Being older than age 40
  • Exposure to UV rays from either sun or tanning beds
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Diagnosing Mouth Cancer

A physical exam of the mouth is done to observe any signs of cancer. Swabbing can be performed to gather cells for laboratory analysis.

Treatments for Mouth Cancer


An operation called tumor resection involves taking the complete tumor from the mouth. The approach depends on the area of the tumor. In other words, a small incision could be created in the neck or jawbone providing easier removal.

Having a tumor surgically removed, reconstruction to that area of the mouth may be necessary. This could require the surgeons to do a pedicle or free flap reconstruction.

Radiation Therapy

Currently radiation therapy treats cancerous tissues of the mouth. The technology is more accurate utilizing equipment made to spare healthy tissue and reduce procedure times. For instance, External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and brachytherapy are the two main radiation therapies to treat mouth cancer.

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Typically used along with radiation therapy, chemotherapy includes drugs that destroy cancer cells in the body. Different chemotherapy drugs can be used together to attack cancer cells at other stages of their developing cycles. So, this decreases the chance of drug resistance.

Targeted Drug Therapy

Targeted drug therapy interrupts the growth of cancer cells during a molecular level. This can be combined with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.


This therapy involves drugs that assist your body’s immune system to identify and destroy cancer cells.

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Tongue Cancer

Tongue cancer is a form of oral cancer appearing in the front two-thirds of the tongue. The National Institute Surveillance estimated a growth in new cases.

Common Tongue Cancer Symptoms

As the other types of oral cancer, the symptoms are alike. Signs are usually thought to be a cold or sore that won’t go away.

Other tongue cancer symptoms could be:

  • Persistent tongue and/or jaw pain
  • A lump or thickening inside the mouth
  • White or red area seen on gums, tongue, tonsil or lining of the mouth
  • Throat is sore or continual sensation that something is caught in the throat
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Issues moving the jaw or tongue

Compared to the other kinds of oral cancer, risk factors for tongue cancer are similar. This includes smoking, heavy alcohol use and HPV infections.

Tongue Cancer Diagnosis

Tongue cancer is typically diagnosed with a biopsy. A tongue biopsy has your doctor inserting a small needle into your tongue. In conclusion, a small amount of tissue is extracted.

This procedure often demands local anesthesia to numb the tongue. But, in the case of a larger area taken, you could be given general anesthesia. Further, the tissue segment is sent to a lab for analysis.

Generally, tongue cancer occurs in the squamous cells. To sum up, the thin, flat cells found on the surface of your tongue.

pexels-shiny-diamond-3762402 types of oral cancer

Treatments for Tongue Cancer


Tumor resection is an operation that takes the complete tumor from the tongue. The operation could involve minimally invasive surgical techniques, if possible.

Radiation Therapy

When radiation therapy is your best option, the radiation oncologist will administer high radiation amounts to cancerous tissues of the tongue. This technology was designed to keep healthy tissue and reduce procedure times.


Usually combined with radiation therapy, chemotherapy involves drugs to kill cancer cells throughout your body. This could be an option if the cancer has gone to closer lymph nodes. Therefore, other chemotherapy drugs could be added to attack cancer cells at different stages of their growth cycles. That is to say, it decreases chances for drug resistance.

Targeted Drug Therapy

Targeted drug therapy interferes with the growth of cancer cells during the molecular level. Often it is in combination with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy as some of the patient’s tongue cancer treatment plan.

Wrapping it up

Lip cancer is the most common and usually caught early. Jaw cancer is rare and odontogenic tumors can develop. Tongue cancer is typically diagnosed with a biopsy that involves anesthesia and tumor resection surgery.

Your mouth involves a couple of your body’s systems. These are important parts needed for your quality of life. Certainly, it is vital to keep your mouth healthy.


Mary is the founder of All About Our Skin. Former esthetician and CPC. Enjoys researching skincare and has been studying our skin for the past fifteen years.

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