Oral cancer begins in the mouth, also called the oral cavity. Oral cavity includes the lips, the inside lining of the lips and cheeks (called the buccal mucosa), the teeth, the gums, most of the tongue, the bottom of the mouth, and the bony roof of the mouth, or hard palate. It may also develop in the oropharynx, which is the part of the throat that is just behind the mouth, which includes of back of the tongue, the back of the roof of the mouth, the tonsils, and the walls of the upper throat.
Cells in the mouth sometimes change and no longer grow or behave normally, causing precancerous conditions. This means that the abnormal cells are not yet cancer, but there is a chance that they may become cancer if they aren’t treated. The most common precancerous conditions of the mouth are leukoplakia and erythroplakia. But in some cases, changes to the cells of the mouth can cause oral cancer.
Cancerous tumours of the mouth
A cancerous tumour of the mouth can grow into and destroy nearby tissue. It can also spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Cancerous tumours are also called malignant tumours. The most common type of oral cancer is squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
Precancerous conditions of the mouth
Precancerous conditions of the mouth are changes to cells of the mouth that make them more likely to develop into cancer. These conditions are not yet cancer. But if they aren’t treated, there is a chance that these abnormal changes may become oral cancer. The most common precancerous conditions of the mouth are leukoplakia and erythroplakia.
Non-cancerous tumours and conditions of the mouth
A non-cancerous (benign) tumour of the mouth is a growth that does not spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. A non-cancerous condition of the mouth is a change in mouth cells, but it is not cancer.