CANCER can occur in any part of the mouth, tongue, lips, throat, salivary glands, pharynx, larynx, sinus, and other sites located in the head and neck area. These “Mouth Cancers” have a higher proportion of deaths per number of cases than breast cancer, cervical cancer or skin melanoma.

Oral and pharyngeal cancer is the sixth most common malignancy reported worldwide and one with high mortality ratios among all malignancies. The global number of new cases was estimated at 405,318 about two-thirds of them arising in developing countries. Highest rates are reported in South Asian countries such as India and Sri Lanka . The Indian sub-continent accounts for one-third of the world burden. The incidence and mortality from oral cancer is rising in several regions of Europe, Taiwan , Japan and Australia.

It is important to have a self-awareness and to perform regular, self-examinations to help in the early identification of these symptoms:

A sore or ulcer in the mouth that does not heal within three weeks


A lump or overgrowth of tissue anywhere in the mouth


A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, or lining of the mouth


Difficulty in swallowing


Difficulty in chewing or moving the jaw or tongue


Numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth


A feeling that something is caught in the throat

A chronic sore throat or hoarseness that  persists more than six weeks, particularly smokers over 50 years old and heavy drinkers

Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable

Neck swelling present for more than three weeks

Unexplained tooth mobility persisting for  more than three weeks – see a dentist urgently

Unilateral nasal mass / ulceration / obstruction, particularly associated with purulent or bloody discharge

Reduce your chances of getting these cancers by:

  • Not smoking or chewing tobacco, gutkha/paan
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Having a healthier “low meat, low fat” diet, rich in vegetables and fruit with servings of bread, cereals or beans everyday

Clinical Photographs

(i) Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The following clinical photographs indicate some of the more common presentations of oral squamous cell carcinomas.

cancer1 cancer2