Oral Cancer | Miami Cancer Institute | Baptist Health South Florida
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Three generation family supporting benign blood disorder patient at Miami Cancer Institute

Oral Cancer

The cancer specialists at Miami Cancer Institute have extensive experience in properly diagnosing and staging oral cancer and developing a care plan that's tailored to your specific disease.

Your comprehensive treatment plan will include special therapies to maintain or restore physical function and aesthetic qualities.

About Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is the most common type of head and neck cancer. More than 90 percent of oral cancers occur in the squamous cells that line the mouth, tongue and lips. These cancers are highly treatable if detected early; therefore, it is important to visit your dentist at least once a year for a complete oral examination.

Risk Factors of Oral Cancer

The main risk factor for oral cancer is tobacco use, which includes smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes, chewing tobacco and using snuff. Additional risk factors for oral cancer include:

  • Male gender
  • African-American heritage
  • Over age 45
  • Chronic irritation caused by ill-fitting dentures
  • Excessive sun exposure, which increases risk of lip cancer
  • Poor nutrition
  • Immunosuppressive drug use
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Personal or family history of head and neck cancer
  • Radiation exposure
  • Lichen planus, a disease that affects the lining of the mouth

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Sometimes oral cancer causes no symptoms. And in some cases, symptoms may be caused by other health issues or problems that are not dangerous. However, since early detection of oral cancer is important for successful treatment, talk to your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • White or red patches in your mouth
  • Sore in your mouth that does not heal
  • Bleeding in your mouth or tongue
  • Loose teeth
  • Lump in your neck, jaw, cheek, tongue or gums
  • Swallowing difficulty
  • Persistent earaches
  • Unexplained weight loss

To make a complete and accurate diagnosis, your doctor may conduct a physical examination, review your medical history and lifestyle habits and perform the following tests:

  • Biopsy, to examine the tumor tissue and determine the kind of cancer.
  • Imaging studies, including X-rays, MRI, CT and PET scans.  
  • Endoscopy, to view the upper airways and inside the nostrils, throat and vocal cords.
  • Laryngoscopy, using a laryngoscope to examination the larynx. 
  • Esophagoscopy, to view the esophagus.
  • Bronchoscopy, to view the bronchial tubes and lungs.
  • Panendoscopy, to view the upper digestive system.

Your treatment for oral cancer depends on the type and stage of the cancer and your general health. Your healthcare team will take special care to maintain optimal physical function by using the most advanced, minimally invasive therapies to treat your oral cancer.

Surgery is the primary treatment for oral cancer and may be performed to remove a tumor, surrounding tissue or bone, teeth or lymph nodes in the neck. Reconstructive or plastic surgery may be performed to restore function and physical appearance.

Additional treatments may include:

  • Proton therapy, which delivers high radiation doses directly into the tumor, sparing nearby healthy tissue. This cutting-edge treatment is performed by highly skilled radiation oncologists, increasing the chance for successful treatment with less impact on your body.
  • Radiation therapy, using high-energy beams to kill cancer cells or relieve symptoms.
  • Chemotherapy, used to shrink cancer before surgery or radiation or to increase effectiveness of treatments.
  • Hormone therapy, using drugs to stop cancer cells from growing.
  • Clinical trials, which can offer access to new treatments that may be successful against your disease.

Our Cancer Patient Support Center is staffed with experienced specialists who provide speech, occupational and physical therapies as well as other support services that restore your physical, emotional and spiritual health.​