Oral Cancer | Miami Cancer Institute | Baptist Health South Florida
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 Oral Cancer

Overview

Oral cavity cancer, also known as mouth cancer, is a kind of Head and Neck Cancer in which malignant (cancerous) cells form in the lips or mouth. Oral cavity cancer is the most common type of Head and Neck Cancer, with more than 90 percent of oral cancers occurring in the squamous cells that line the mouth, tongue and lips.

Oral cavity cancer is very closely linked to pharyngeal (oral pharyngeal) cancer because of the closeness of location within the head and neck.

The oral cavity includes the front two-thirds of the tongue as well as the gums, the lining inside the cheeks, the floor of the mouth under the tongue, the hard palate on the roof of the mouth, and the retromolar trigone, which is the small area located behind the wisdom teeth.

There are four main types of oral cavity cancer:

Tongue cancer occurs in the front two-thirds of the tongue. The most common type of tongue cancer is called squamous cell carcinoma (squamous cells are found in many of the body’s tissues, including the skin and respiratory tract.) As with many cancers, early detection and diagnosis often lead to more treatment options and better outcomes.

Lip cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancerous) cells form on or in the lips. Most lip cancers start in squamous cells and may spread into deeper tissues. Patients with lip cancer may notice leukoplakias, which are abnormal patches of white tissue, or other types of sores on the lips that will not heal. Sometimes lip cancer does not present any symptoms at all, although it may be found during a routine dental exam.

Gum cancer is often mistaken for gingivitis because it begins in the upper or lower gums. Eventually lesions or tumors form, and dentists typically are the first to notice signs of gum cancer during routine dental examinations. Gum cancers are highly curable when detected and diagnosed early.

Jaw cancer typically originates in the jawbones (called primary jaw cancer), though cancers from other tissues can spread to the jaw (called secondary jaw cancer). Both primary and secondary jaw cancers can cause bone destruction because of tumor growth.

Miami Cancer Institute’s oral cavity cancer specialists and subspecialists combine world-recognized medical expertise, innovation and compassionate care to detect and treat your specific cancer, creating precise, personalized treatment plans that incorporate groundbreaking discoveries, collaborations with other world-renowned cancer researchers and the best individualized treatment just for you.

If you’ve been diagnosed with oral cancer, would like more information, or would like a referral to our program, please call 1-786-596-2000 (local) or 1-866-596-2330 (toll-free).

International patients, please contact our International Services team at 1-786-596-2373 or email us at International@BaptistHealth.net.

(Source: National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov)

Risk Factors

A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of developing a disease. Having risk factors, however, does not necessarily mean you will get cancer, so it’s important to know your own personal risk factors and discuss any concerns with your doctor.

Although the effects of oral cavity cancer can be significant, especially when not detected or diagnosed early, the disease is highly treatable – and even sometimes preventable – which is why it’s important to know your risk factors.

Oral cavity cancer is more than twice as common in men than in women. As people age, however, they may be more susceptible to oral cavity cancer.

About one-quarter of patients who develop oral cavity cancer are younger than age 55, but children are rarely diagnosed with the disease.

Some of the greatest risk factors for oral cancer include:

  • Tobacco use
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Exposure to natural sunlight or artificial light (such as by using tanning beds) over long periods of time

Other risk factors include:

Miami Cancer Institute’s oral cavity cancer specialists and subspecialists combine world-recognized medical expertise, innovation and compassionate care to detect and treat your specific cancer, creating precise, personalized treatment plans that incorporate groundbreaking discoveries, collaborations with other world-renowned cancer researchers and the best individualized treatment just for you.

If you’ve been diagnosed with oral cancer, would like more information, or would like a referral to our program, please call 1-786-596-2000 (local) or 1-866-596-2330 (toll-free).

International patients, please contact our International Services team at 1-786-596-2373 or email us at International@BaptistHealth.net.

(Source: National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov)

Prevention

Oral cavity cancer is highly preventable, and by minimizing your risk factors, you may lower your risk of contracting the disease.

Preventing oral cavity cancers often involves changing lifestyle behaviors. This includes avoiding tobacco use in any form, limiting alcohol consumption and closely monitoring and limiting sun exposure – especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when ultraviolet rays are the strongest. Also, when in the sun, it’s important to use a lip balm with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher and reapply frequently.

It is also important to visit your primary care physician for regular check-ups and your dentist for regular and complete oral examinations, because not every patient exhibits signs or symptoms.

As with any type of cancer prevention, Miami Cancer Institute’s specialists recommend knowing and understanding your risk factors.

Miami Cancer Institute’s oral cavity cancer specialists and subspecialists combine world-recognized medical expertise, innovation and compassionate care to detect and treat your specific cancer, creating precise, personalized treatment plans that incorporate groundbreaking discoveries, collaborations with other world-renowned cancer researchers and the best individualized treatment just for you.

If you’ve been diagnosed with oral cancer, would like more information, or would like a referral to our program, please call 1-786-596-2000 (local) or 1-866-596-2330 (toll-free).

International patients, please contact our International Services team at 1-786-596-2373 or email us at International@BaptistHealth.net.

(Source: National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov)

Symptoms

Oral cavity cancer symptoms often can vary, so if you have any symptoms, especially those that last longer than two weeks, it is important to see your doctor. Having symptoms does not necessarily mean you have oral cavity cancer, but if you are diagnosed with the disease and it is detected early, it is often highly treatable.

Oral cancer symptoms aren’t always obvious, but they can include:

  • white or red patches on lips, gums, tongue or lining of the mouth
  • a lump inside the mouth or on the neck
  • pain or difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking
  • hoarseness
  • mouth numbness or pain
  • jaw swelling
  • teeth loosening
  • difficulty wearing dentures
  • unexplained weight loss
  • bleeding in the mouth
  • a sore on the lip or in the mouth that does not go away
  • a persistent earache

If you experience any of these symptoms, especially for more than a couple of weeks, talk with your doctor about any concerns you might have.

Miami Cancer Institute’s oral cavity cancer specialists and subspecialists combine world-recognized medical expertise, innovation and compassionate care to detect and treat your specific cancer, creating precise, personalized treatment plans that incorporate groundbreaking discoveries, collaborations with other world-renowned cancer researchers and the best individualized treatment just for you.

If you’ve been diagnosed with oral cancer, would like more information, or would like a referral to our program, please call 1-786-596-2000 (local) or 1-866-596-2330 (toll-free).

International patients, please contact our International Services team at 1-786-596-2373 or email us at International@BaptistHealth.net.

(Source: National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov)

Diagnosis

At Miami Cancer Institute, our nationally recognized oral cavity cancer specialists and subspecialists work together across many medical disciplines (known as a multidisciplinary approach) to provide you with the most advanced, comprehensive diagnostics available today – all under one roof and all conveniently located in South Florida.

Our expert multidisciplinary team begins with determining your complete family history and providing you with a thorough physical examination. This includes blood tests and state-of-the-art advanced imaging and laboratory tests, all with a compassionate, patient-centered focus.

When you’re diagnosed with oral cavity cancer at the Cancer Institute, our expert healthcare team uses a variety of personalized tests depending on what is right for you. This can include:

  • Biopsy to examine tumor tissues to determine the specific kind of cancer present
  • Imaging studies that may include CT (Computed Tomography), MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans
  • Endoscopy to view the upper airways and inside the nostrils, throat and vocal cords

If you experience any of these symptoms, especially for more than a couple of weeks, talk with your doctor about any concerns you might have.

Miami Cancer Institute’s oral cavity cancer specialists and subspecialists combine world-recognized medical expertise, innovation and compassionate care to detect and treat your specific cancer, creating precise, personalized treatment plans that incorporate groundbreaking discoveries, collaborations with other world-renowned cancer researchers and the best individualized treatment just for you.

If you’ve been diagnosed with oral cancer, would like more information, or would like a referral to our program, please call 1-786-596-2000 (local) or 1-866-596-2330 (toll-free).

International patients, please contact our International Services team at 1-786-596-2373 or email us at International@BaptistHealth.net.

(Source: National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov)

Treatment Options

The oral cavity cancer specialists and subspecialists at Miami Cancer Institute are nationally renowned experts who offer the most advanced and innovative therapies available to treat your specific kind of cancer.

Immediately after diagnosis, our specialty teams provide additional tests to determine if the cancer has affected other areas of the head and neck or any other areas of your body.

Every oral cavity cancer patient’s disease is unique, with different cells moving, changing or multiplying based on that person’s individual genetic make-up. In addition to locating the tumor cells and determining what the genetic changes and markers are, additional ways our specialists and subspecialists can create the best treatment plan is to factor in a patient’s age, overall health, family history, medical history, and finally to stage the cancer, which helps identify how far the disease has progressed.

Your personalized treatment plan may include:

  • Surgery: Every patient’s cancer is unique, so your Miami Cancer Institute specialists will discuss what surgical option might be best for you in order to remove a tumor.
  • Radiation Therapy: As the only cancer center in the world to offer all of the latest radiation therapy technologies under one roof, the Cancer Institute is also home to South Florida’s first state-of-the-art proton therapy center. This therapy delivers less radiation dosage to normal tissues near the tumor, which can often reduce treatment side effects. It can also enable our experts to give a higher treatment dose to the tumor safely, further improving the ability to destroy tumor cells. For a full listing of radiation therapies available, click here.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy drugs destroy cancer cells and control their growth. Chemotherapy can be combined with other treatments either to shrink tumors before surgery or radiation or to ensure all cancer cells have been eliminated following other treatment therapies.
    In most cases, chemotherapy is given intravenously (through an IV) through a thin tube called a catheter, which is inserted into a vein.
    Other chemotherapy delivery methods include:
    • Orally, in the form of pills or liquid
    • Injection, into a muscle or below your skin
    • Topically, in the form of a cream applied to your skin
    • Intrahepatically, which means it’s delivered to the hepatic artery, which sends blood directly into the liver
    • Intraperitoneally, which means it’s delivered in an injection into the abdominal cavity
    • Intrathecally, which means it’s delivered into the fluid-filled space between the thin tissue layers covering the brain and spinal cord
  • Targeted Therapies: Your Miami Cancer Institute cancer specialists use drugs or other select substances to identify and attack specific types of cancer cells, blocking their growth and spread. The goal of targeted therapy is to interfere with genes or proteins involved in tumor growth while avoiding damage to healthy cells.
    Targeted therapy is the foundation of precision medicine, which uses information about a person’s genes or a tumor’s DNA profile to develop innovative, tailored treatment options.
    Treatment can be delivered orally, intravenously or by another mode – specific to you and your cancer type. Targeted therapy may also be combined with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.
  • Immunotherapy: Your Miami Cancer Institute cancer specialist may use certain drugs to assist your immune system’s ability to identify and attack specific types of cancer cells, blocking their growth and spread.
    Immunotherapy is delivered intravenously and is usually very well tolerated. It may also be combined with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.
  • Clinical Trials offer South Florida patients and our communities access to leading-edge, innovative treatments that often result in new therapies not available elsewhere and can also often mean excellent outcomes for patients.

Miami Cancer Institute’s oral cavity cancer specialists and subspecialists combine world-recognized medical expertise, innovation and compassionate care to detect and treat your specific cancer, creating precise, personalized treatment plans that incorporate groundbreaking discoveries, collaborations with other world-renowned cancer researchers and the best individualized treatment just for you.

If you’ve been diagnosed with oral cancer, would like more information, or would like a referral to our program, please call 1-786-596-2000 (local) or 1-866-596-2330 (toll-free).

International patients, please contact our International Services team at 1-786-596-2373 or email us at International@BaptistHealth.net.

(Source: National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov)

Treatment Planning & Cancer Patient Support

At Miami Cancer Institute, our nationally recognized oral cavity cancer specialists and subspecialists work together across numerous medical disciplines (known as a multidisciplinary approach) – medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgical oncology, oral oncology, radiology, and more – to provide you with the most advanced, precise and personalized treatments available today – all under one roof and all conveniently located in South Florida.

Our expert multidisciplinary team designs an individualized treatment plan that is created to address your specific cancer and that helps ensure you receive the best care available anywhere.

Additionally, our dedicated Cancer Patient Support Center team works with each patient to tailor a personalized plan that may include physical therapy, nutritional advice, pain management services and more. Your team of Institute specialists will work with you to determine which support services will best meet your individual needs.

The Institute also offers an innovative Patient Navigation Program that streamlines each patient’s care delivery, creating a smoother, more seamless care path while also enhancing a compassionate patient experience on the cancer journey. From helping you manage symptoms and understand t​reatment options to assisting caregivers and helping resolve insurance challenges, the Institute’s nurse navigators develop compassionate and consistent relationships with patients to help each patient at virtually every point of need. To learn more about the Patient Navigation Program, please click here.

Miami Cancer Institute’s oral cavity cancer specialists and subspecialists combine world-recognized medical expertise, innovation and compassionate care to detect and treat your specific cancer, creating precise, personalized treatment plans that incorporate groundbreaking discoveries, collaborations with other world-renowned cancer researchers and the best individualized treatment just for you.

If you’ve been diagnosed with oral cancer, would like more information, or would like a referral to our program, please call 1-786-596-2000 (local) or 1-866-596-2330 (toll-free).

International patients, please contact our International Services team at 1-786-596-2373 or email us at International@BaptistHealth.net.

(Source: National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov)

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials offer cancer patients additional hope – even if other treatment methods have proven challenging and extraordinarily complex – by helping all of us gain new insights into ways of preventing, detecting, treating and curing cancer.

And at Miami Cancer Institute, our oral cavity cancer specialists and subspecialists believe that groundbreaking, transformative research through medical collaboration with each other as well as with other world-renowned cancer experts can bring promising new drugs and innovative therapies directly to the patient by offering access to leading-edge clinical trials – targeted to your specific type of cancer.

Organized around cancer-specific research groups and led by internationally renowned oncology researcher and Deputy Director/Chief Scientific Officer Miguel Villalona Calero, M.D., the Cancer Institute’s Clinical Research Program is designed to focus on precision medicine and to conduct detailed, patient-centered studies that identify your specific genes and molecular makeup (known as genomics), as well as your environment and lifestyle.

Additionally, our alliance with our colleagues at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center​ enables us to offer our patients access to even more innovative therapies and clinical trials to treat your specific disease – creating a robust Clinical Trials program unmatched by any other in South Florida and deemed one of the best in the entire nation.

To find out which clinical trials may be available for your specific cancer, click here.

If you’ve been diagnosed with oral cancer, would like more information, or would like a referral to our program, please call 1-786-596-2000 (local) or 1-866-596-2330 (toll-free).

International patients, please contact our International Services team at 1-786-596-2373 or email us at International@BaptistHealth.net.

(Source: National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov)

The Experts

Miami Cancer Institute’s world-renowned oral cavity cancer experts – and the advanced technologies we offer – provide you with a life-changing medical edge in your fight against cancer, all conveniently available right here in South Florida.

Led by Chief of Head and Neck Cancer Surgery Geoffrey Young, M.D., Ph.D., and Head and Neck Medical Oncologist Guilherme Rabinowits, M.D., the Cancer Institute’s team of prominent oral cavity oncologists comprises nationally and internationally recognized experts who are well-established in our community and who collaborate with each other as well as across medical disciplines to provide personalized, compassionate, innovative treatments for each patient.

If you’ve been diagnosed with oral cancer, would like more information, or would like a referral to our program, please call 1-786-596-2000 (local) or 1-866-596-2330 (toll-free).

International patients, please contact our International Services team at 1-786-596-2373 or email us at International@BaptistHealth.net.

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