Oral Cavity Cancer

The oral cavity is the most common site for squamous cancers of the head and neck. Tongue cancers form the majority of cancers within this group but lip, jaw, gum, cheek and palatal cancers are other sites from which squamous cancers may arise. Cancers of the oral cavity are strongly associated with tobacco and betel nut and use, and excessive alcohol consumption.


          Persistent white or red patch on the tongue, gums or cheek
          A poorly healing tooth socket
          A firm or painful ulcer on the tongue or cheek that does not heal in 3 weeks
          A hard and painless neck lump
          Painful or difficult swallowing


SURGERY is frequently the initial modality of treatment for cancers of the oral cavity, and may be the only treatment required for early stage cancers.

Additional treatment in the form of radiation and chemotherapy may be required for more advanced cancers.

Surgical procedures commonly performed for oral cavity cancers include:

  Glossectomy (for cancers involving the tongue)
  Maxillectomy (for cancers involving the hard palate and sinuses)
  Mandibulectomy (for cancers involving the jaw and gums)
  Commando Operation (for advanced cancers involving several regions within the oral cavity)
  Neck Dissection (removal of cancerous lymph nodes in the neck)

After removal of the cancer, the surgical defect is reconstituted primarily (by direct closure) or by reconstructing the area with fresh tissue from the neck and chest, or from other parts of the body, called loco-regional and free flaps respectively.

Reconstruction of the surgical defect is vital in ensuring both form (aesthetic appearance) and function (speech and swallowing) are optimally preserved.


The cure rates for early stage oral cavity cancer (Stages I & II) are 80 – 95%, and 40 – 60% for advanced staged cancers (Stage III & IV).

The Thyroid Head & Neck Surgery Centre