There is no such thing as routine lip and oral cavity cancer. Every patient’s lip and oral cavity cancer is different, with different, individually unique genes and molecules driving each person’s specific cancer.

At the OSUCCC – James, our lip and oral cavity cancer specialists are world-renowned cancer experts who focus solely on lip and oral cavity cancer and who reach across medical disciplines (otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, neurosurgeons, radiologists, speech pathologists, pharmacists and more) to design the very best treatment plan and therapies to target each patient’s specific cancer.

And by offering access to the country’s most advanced clinical trials right here at the OSUCCC – James, patients know that additional options, when needed, are often available for their treatment and care.

Facts About Lip & Oral Cavity Cancer

Lip and oral cavity cancers affect the lips, tongue, gums, the lining of the inside of the cheeks, the bottom of the mouth under the tongue, the roof of the mouth and the area behind the wisdom teeth.

Tobacco use - including cigarettes, pipes, cigars and chewing tobacco - is the leading cause of oral cancers. Almost all oral cancers begin in the cells that line the lip and oral cavity. These cells are thin and flat and are called squamous cells. The majority of lip and oral cavity cancers diagnosed are squamous cell carcinomas. A telltale sign of squamous cell carcinoma is a white or red lesion that does not rub off.

As the cancer progresses, it may invade deeper into other surrounding tissue.

Deaths from oral cancers overall have decreased over the last three decades. However, one particular type of oral cancer, caused by the human papillomavirus 16 (HPV16) is on the rise. HPV16 is passed person to person through sexual contact and is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer (tonsil and base of tongue)  HPV16 is typically not involved with oral cancers.

Oral cancer is more often diagnosed in older adults, a majority of whom are men.

Lip And Oral Cavity Anatomy

Lip & Oral Cavity Cancer Symptoms

In its earliest stages, lip and oral cavity cancer may not produce any symptoms and is sometimes found during a regular dental exam.

When symptoms do occur, they may include the following:

  • A sore on the lip or in the mouth that does not heal
  • A lump or thickening on the lips,gums,mouth, and/or neck
  • A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsils, or lining of the mouth
  • Bleeding, pain, or numbness in the lip,mouth, chin or cheek
  • Change in voice
  • Loose teeth or dentures that no longer fit well
  • Trouble chewing or swallowing or moving the tongue or jaw
  • Swelling of jaw or neck
  • Sore throat or feeling that something is caught in the throat
  • Weight loss

Having these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have lip and oral cavity cancer. But if you have symptoms, you should tell your doctor, especially if symptoms have continued for longer than a few weeks.

(Source: National Cancer Institute)


If you have received a lip and oral cavity cancer diagnosis, or if you want a second opinion or just want to speak to a lip and oral cavity cancer specialist, we are here to help you. Call 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

Make an Appointment


Please enter a keyword (i.e. Name, Cancer Type) or choose a Principle Investigator


Please enter a keyword (i.e. Name, Location) or choose a Cancer Type


Find a Location

Search by Building Name, Doctor Name, or ZIP code

The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute

460 W. 10th Ave.

Columbus, Ohio 43210


What to Expect at The James

Patient and Visitor's Guide

Get information about your stay, amenities, visitor information and more.

Your First Appointment

Know what to bring, how to prepare and what to expect at your first appointment.

Patient Education

Read from a library of resources designed by experts to help you answer questions and make informed decisions.

Contact Us

The Joan Bisesi Fund for Head and Neck Oncology Research

Joans Fund

Learn how giving to Joan's Fund supports the legacy of Joan Bisesi and head and neck cancer research at the OSUCCC – James.

Learn More