Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is cancer that forms in the tissues of any part of the mouth or throat. There are many types of oral cancer, and most begin in the tongue and floor of the mouth. It also may develop on the lips, gums, lining of the cheeks, and roof of the mouth. Men are most at risk, especially those beyond age 40, users of tobacco or alcohol, and those with a history of head or neck cancer. Alabama ranks No. 5 in the nation for the number of oral cancer cases. About 75% of people suffering from oral cancer are seen first by their dentist before being referred for medical testing and treatment.

Symptoms of oral cancer often include common conditions that people might dismiss or assume will go away on their own. These symptoms include:

  • Bleeding or sore gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Numbness of the lip, gums, chin, or cheeks
  • A lump or mass in the neck
  • Pain in the ear, jaw, or mouth
  • New nasal congestion
  • Nasal bleeding
  • Problems or pain with swallowing
  • White or red patches in the mouth


Outstanding patient care is the primary focus of the UAB Medicine Head and Neck Oncology program. As a national leader in head and neck cancer treatment, we offer a number of surgical and nonsurgical treatment options for both malignant (cancerous) and benign (non-cancerous) tumors. We use a team approach that combines the expertise of head and neck surgeons; ear, nose, and throat physicians (otolaryngologists); medical and radiation oncologists; speech and swallowing specialists; dentists and prosthetic dentists; nutritionists; speech and language pathologists; and supportive care professionals.

A group of specialists called a tumor board meets weekly to discuss treatment options for patients with new and recurring cases of oral cancer. The board considers the latest clinical trials, immunotherapy (treatments that focus on the body’s immune system), and the most advanced surgical techniques in designing a treatment plan for each individual patient. And for the convenience of our patients, especially those who live far away, our Virtual Multidisciplinary Clinic enables patients to have much of their initial assessment done in one day, often avoiding multiple visits to different doctors.






UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials. We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.

View Clinical Trials