How Fast Does Oral Cancer Spread? Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Treatment

Oral cancer, often known as mouth cancer or oral cavity cancer, is a kind of cancer that affects the mouth, tongue, lips, or throat. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 54,010 persons will be diagnosed with oral cancer in the United States in 2021, with around 10,850 dying from it.

One of the most concerning aspects of oral cancer is its potential to spread quickly if not detected and treated early. In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment of oral cancer, as well as how fast it can spread.

How Fast Does Oral Cancer Spread?

How Fast Does Oral Cancer Spread- Causes of Oral Cancer

Like other types of cancer, oral cancer occurs when cells in the mouth or throat grow out of control and form a tumour. While the exact causes of oral cancer are unknown, a number of risk factors have been identified, including:

  • Tobacco use: Smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and other tobacco products can increase the risk of oral cancer. Chewing tobacco and using snuff can also increase the risk, especially when used over a long period of time.
  • Alcohol consumption: Drinking alcohol, especially when combined with tobacco use, can increase the risk of oral cancer.
  • HPV infection: Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cancer in the mouth, throat, and other areas of the body.
  • Sun exposure: Prolonged sun exposure might raise the chance of developing lip cancer.
  • Poor oral hygiene: Not taking care of your teeth and gums can lead to oral cancer.
  • Family history: People with a family history of oral cancer are at an increased risk.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

The symptoms of oral cancer vary based on the location and stage of the tumour, but the following are some common signs and symptoms:

  • Mouth sores that do not heal
  • Red or white patches in the mouth
  • Mouth or throat swelling or tumours
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Persistent ear pain
  • Numbness of the tongue or other oral parts
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Hoarseness or a change in voice
  • Bad breath

If you have any of these symptoms, you should consult a doctor or dentist as soon as possible.

How Fast Does Oral Cancer Spread?

The speed at which oral cancer spreads can vary depending on several factors, including the location and size of the tumour, the type of cancer cells involved, and the individual’s overall health. In general, oral cancer tends to spread more quickly than other types of cancer, such as breast or prostate cancer.

If oral cancer is not detected and treated early, it can spread to nearby tissues and organs, such as the lymph nodes, salivary glands, and jawbone. It can then spread to other regions of the body, such as the lungs, liver, or brain.

Treatment for Oral Cancer

The treatment for oral cancer depends on several factors, including the location and stage of the cancer, the individual’s overall health, and the preferences of the patient and their healthcare team. Treatment options may include:

  • Surgery: If the cancer is small and localized, surgery may be used to remove the tumour and any nearby lymph nodes.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to attack cancer cells. It can be used alone or alongside surgery or chemotherapy.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be used alone or alongside surgery or radiation therapy.
  • Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy uses drugs that target specific proteins or other molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Preventing Oral Cancer

While there is no surefire way to prevent oral cancer, there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing the disease. These include:

  • Quitting tobacco use: Quitting smoking and using other tobacco products can significantly reduce your risk of developing oral cancer. If you need assistance quitting, speak with your healthcare physician or consider enrolling in a smoking cessation programme.
  • Reducing alcohol consumption: Limiting your alcohol consumption or quitting altogether can help reduce your risk of developing oral cancer.
  • Practising good oral hygiene: Brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily, and seeing your dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings can help prevent oral cancer.
  • Protecting your lips from sun exposure: Wearing a lip balm or lipstick with SPF 30 or higher and avoiding prolonged sun exposure can help reduce your risk of developing lip cancer.
  • Getting vaccinated against HPV: The HPV vaccine can help protect against certain strains of HPV that can cause oral cancer.

In addition to these steps, it is important to see your dentist or healthcare provider regularly for oral cancer screenings. Early detection is key to successful treatment and a better chance of survival.


Oral cancer is a dangerous disease that, if not diagnosed and treated early, can spread swiftly. While the exact causes of oral cancer are unknown, several risk factors, such as tobacco use, alcohol consumption, HPV infection, sun exposure, poor oral hygiene, and family history, have been identified. Oral cancer symptoms include persistent mouth ulcers, red or white areas in the mouth, trouble swallowing or chewing, and unexplained weight loss. Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy are all possible treatments. To reduce your risk of developing oral cancer, it is important to quit tobacco use, reduce alcohol consumption, practice good oral hygiene, protect your lips from sun exposure, and get vaccinated against HPV. Regular oral cancer screenings are also important for early detection and successful treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions:

Does mouth cancer progress quickly?

Mouth cancer progresses at varied speeds based on a variety of factors, including the individual’s health, the location and size of the tumour, and the stage of the cancer at diagnosis. Oral cancer progresses slowly in general, and it may take months or even years for the tumour to grow and spread to other regions of the body. Early identification and treatment, on the other hand, can considerably boost the odds of a full recovery, thus it is critical to be aware of the signs and symptoms of oral cancer and to seek medical assistance if any abnormalities in the mouth or throat are discovered.

How long does it take oral cancer to progress?

The rate at which oral cancer progresses can vary greatly based on a number of factors, including the tumour’s location, size, and stage, as well as the individual’s overall health and immune system activity. Oral cancer often progresses slowly over several months to years, but it can also progress quickly in some circumstances. It is crucial to remember that early detection and treatment can considerably improve the odds of a successful recovery, thus regular dental check-ups and screenings are encouraged, particularly for those who are at a higher risk of getting oral cancer. If you detect any unexpected changes or symptoms in your mouth or throat, seek medical assistance right once.

How will mouth cancer start?

Mouth cancer starts when cells in the mouth mutate and begin to grow uncontrollably, forming a tumour or lesion. Risk factors include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, weakened immune system, and exposure to HPV. Regular dental check-ups and screenings are recommended for early detection.

What is the last stage of mouth cancer?

The last stage of mouth cancer is Stage IV, which is the most advanced stage. At this stage, the cancer has spread beyond the original site to nearby tissues, lymph nodes, and other parts of the body. Treatment options may be limited, and the focus may shift to palliative care. Early detection and treatment are important to improve the chances of successful recovery.

Leave a Comment