There is no such thing as a routine lip or oral cancer. Every patient’s disease is different, with different, individually unique genes and molecules driving that specific tumor.

At the OSUCCC – James, our lip and oral cancer subspecialists are world-renowned cancer experts who focus solely on these tumors and who reach across medical disciplines (otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, neurosurgeons, radiologists, speech pathologist, 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 (including robotic surgical trials for tonsil and base-of-tongue cancers) right here at the OSUCCC – James, patients know that additional options, when needed, are often available for their treatment and care.

Facts About Lip and 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. HPV 16 is passed person to person through sexual contact and is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer (tonsil and base of tongue; not considered an “oral” cancer). 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

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

Lip & Oral Cavity Cancer Symptoms

In the beginning, lip and oral cavity cancer patients may not have any noticeable symptoms, and instead, cancer is sometimes found during a regular dental exam.

When symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • 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 the 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’ve been diagnosed with lip or oral cancer, would like a second opinion or would like to speak with a lip or oral cancer specialist, please call The James Line at 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 West 10th Avenue

Columbus, Ohio 43210