What is Oral Cancer?

Approximately 35,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with this largely preventable type of cancer that affects the mouth and/or part of the throat. Most oral cancers are related to tobacco use, alcohol use, or both. You can help reduce your risk for oral cancer by avoiding all tobacco products and drinking alcohol only in moderation.

Early Detection

Because oral cancer can spread quickly, early detection is important. An oral cancer exam can identify early signs of this disease. The exam is quick and painless, and can be done during your regular dental check-up. Be sure to tell your dentist if you notice persistent changes in your mouth or throat, such as sores, swelling, or numbness, or if you have difficulty eating or swallowing.

Health Information

For health professionals

For patients and the public

  • Oral Cancer
    Pamphlet that describes the risk factors, signs and symptoms of oral cancer, and the importance of detecting the disease in its early stages.
  • The Oral Cancer Exam
    Step-by-step description of the oral cancer examination so patients know what to expect.
  • What You Need to Know About Oral Cancer
    For people who have been diagnosed with oral cancer, this brochure includes information on symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of oral cancer, along with definitions of selected medical terms and resource information.
  • Oral Cancer
    A fact sheet that describes current and future efforts to improve detection and treatment of oral cancers.
  • Head and Neck Cancer: Questions and Answers
    A fact sheet from the NIH’s National Cancer Institute that answers questions about cancers of the mouth (oral cavity), salivary glands, sinuses, throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), and lymph nodes in the upper neck.
  • Oral Cancer Home Page
    The NIH National Cancer Institute’s gateway for information about oral cancer.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Oral Cancer page
    Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including a fact sheet on oral cancer.
  • MedlinePlus: Oral Cancer
    The NIH National Library of Medicine’s compilation of links to government, professional and non-profit/voluntary organizations with information on oral cancer.

NIDCR’s “Oral Cancer: What African American Men Need to Know” campaign

Clinical Trials



Related Oral Health Topics