Oral cancer is a cancer that starts in the mouth or oral cavities. The oral cavity consists of the lips, the teeth, the inside lining of the lips and cheeks (buccal mucosa). It also consists of the floor of the mouth just below the tongue, the bony roof of the mouth (hard palate) and the area behind the wisdom tooth (the retromolar trigone).

Furthermore, the oral cavity aids in breathing, talking, eating, chewing and swallowing. The different parts of the oral cavity are made up of several types of cells which can develop into different types of cancer.

Tumors In The Oral Cavity

Benign tumors

Firstly, benign tumors are growths that do not invade other tissues and do not spread to other parts of the body. Many of them can start in the mouth or throat, and these include:

  • Eosinophilic granuloma
  • Fibroma
  • Granular cell tumor
  • Lipoma
  • Neurofibroma
  • Schwannoma
  • Leiomyoma
  • Osteochondroma
  • Keratoacanthoma
  • Papilloma
  • Rhabdomyoma
  • Odontogenic tumors
  • Pyogenic granuloma
  • Verruciform xanthoma
  • Condyloma acuminatum

These noncancerous tumors also start from different kinds of cells and are due to various causes.

Leukoplakia And Erythroplakia

These, on the other hand, are particular types of abnormal tissues that are present in the mouth and throat. They are possible pre-cancerous conditions.

  • Leukoplakia: These are white or gray patches in the mouth.
  • Erythroplakia: These, on the other hand, are flat or slightly protruding, red areas that bleed easily.
  • Erythroleukoplakia: Lastly, this is a patch or oral tissue with both red and white areas.

In most occasions, leukoplakia does not develop into cancer. However, some leukoplakias are either cancerous or have pre-cancerous changes when first found. These pre-cancerous changes can eventually progress to develop into cancer if not treated properly. Erythroplakia and erythroleukoplakia are less common but usually severe. These red lesions may turn out to be cancer when they get biopsied, or they may later develop into cancer.

Dysplasia, a precancerous condition that could also be relatively harmless. It is also graded as mild, moderate or severe, based on how abnormal the tissue looks under the microscope.

Types Of Oral Cancer

Squamous cell carcinoma

It constitutes to 90% of cancers of the oral cavity. These cancers begin in early forms of squamous cells, which are flat, scale-like cells that typically make up the lining of the mouth. Furthermore, the earliest form of squamous cell cancer is called carcinoma in situ; cancer cells that are only in the outer layer of the cells (epithelium). This is far different from invasive squamous cell carcinoma, in which the cancer cells have grown into deeper layers of the oral cavity.

Verrucous carcinoma

This is a type of squamous cell carcinoma that constitutes to less than 5% of oral cancers. It is low-grade cancer that rarely metastasizes to other parts of the body, but it can grow deeply into the nearby tissue. If not treated, some areas of ordinary squamous cell carcinoma may develop within some verrucous carcinomas. Cells from these sectors that have squamous cell carcinoma may then spread to other parts of the body.

Lymphomas

These, meanwhile, are cancer tumors that start in the tonsils and base of the tongue contain lymphoid (immune system).

Minor salivary gland carcinomas

Lastly, minor salivary gland tumors can develop in the glands that are found in the lining of the mouth and throat. Furthermore, there exist numerous types of minor salivary gland cancers. These include:

  • Adenoid cystic carcinoma
  • Mucoepidermoid carcinoma
  • Polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma
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