Oral cancer


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Oral cancer

Eyes, ears, nose and throat

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Nasal and nasopharyngeal disorders

Choanal atresia

Allergic rhinitis

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Oral cavity and oropharyngeal disorders



Ludwig angina

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Temporomandibular joint dysfunction

Oral cancer

Warthin tumor

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Eyes, ears, nose and throat pathology review

Eye conditions: Refractive errors, lens disorders and glaucoma: Pathology review

Eye conditions: Retinal disorders: Pathology review

Eye conditions: Inflammation, infections and trauma: Pathology review

Vertigo: Pathology review

Nasal, oral and pharyngeal diseases: Pathology review

Thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer: Pathology review

Parathyroid disorders and calcium imbalance: Pathology review


Oral cancer


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Oral cancer

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Content Reviewers

Rishi Desai, MD, MPH


Charles Davis, MD

Sam Gillespie, BSc

Tanner Marshall, MS

Oral cancer describes cancers that originate in the oral cavity.

The oral cavity includes the lips, the gingiva, or gums, the floor of the mouth, the buccal mucosa which is the soft lining of the inner lips and cheeks, the anterior or front two-thirds of the tongue, the hard palate which is the tough front part of the roof of the mouth, and the retromolar trigone which is the mucosa right behind the last molars on the bottom row of teeth.

Behind the oral cavity is the oropharynx.

The oropharynx includes the soft palate which is the soft part of the roof of the mouth right behind the hard palate, the tonsils, the walls of the throat, and the posterior or back one-third of the tongue.

The oral cavity and oropharynx are lined by epithelium - and there are a few different types.

The first type of epithelium is called keratinized stratified squamous epithelium.

These epithelial cells produce keratin, a protein that makes the layer tough, and protects against normal wear and tear from food and drinks.

Beneath the epithelium, there’s another layer called the basement membrane made of tough connective tissue, and below that is the lamina propria which yet more connective tissue that houses blood vessels, lymphatics, nerves, and immune cells.

The oral surfaces covered in keratinized epithelium include the hard palate, the dorsal surface, or top, of the tongue, and the gingiva.

A second type of epithelium is non-keratinized stratified squamous epithelium, and it contains cells that don’t produce much keratin, making this layer less tough.


Oral cancer refers to cancers that develop in the oral cavity. Such cancers can affect the lips, tongue, cheek lining, floor of the mouth, and hard and soft palate. Common risk factors for oral cancer include alcohol abuse, tobacco smoking, using betel quid, immunodeficiency, and nutritional deficiencies. Diagnosis includes a biopsy, while treatment might include surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.


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