Oral cancer, also known as mouth cancer, is cancer that develops in any part of your mouth. Your mouth helps you eat, speak and breathe, but cancer can affect those functions. It’s important to find a treatment that gives you the best chance for a cure while also preserving as much function as possible.

In many cases, suspected oral cancers are found during regular dental checkups by a dentist. Patients can then be referred to UK Markey Cancer Center for further evaluation, diagnosis and treatment.

Ear Nose Throat specialty national ranking badgeOral Cancer at UK Markey Cancer Center

Our compassionate team of experts includes doctors, surgeons and other health care providers who all specialize in treating the specific needs of patients with head and neck cancers like oral cancer. 

This entire team regularly communicates about your treatment plan. We’ll give you options and work closely with you to customize your care. Your team will include:

  • Head and neck surgeons with years of focused training in oral cancer
  • Medical and radiation oncologists
  • Experts in speech, nutrition, physical therapy and psycho-oncology

Markey has provided state-of-the-art cancer care for more than 30 years, and we are proud to be the only cancer center in Kentucky designated by the National Cancer Institute. Since 2017, Markey Cancer Center has been nationally recognized as a top 50 cancer center by U.S. News & World Report.

People with oral cancers may not experience any symptoms at all. Your dentist can check for signs or oral cancers during your regular exams. Symptoms may include:

  • Red or white patches on the mouth, tongue or gums
  • Sore or lump on the mouth or lips
  • Bleeding or pain in the mouth or the gums

According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for oral cancer that has not spread to other parts of the body is 85 percent. When it has spread to nearby tissue, organs or lymph nodes, the survival rate is 67 percent. For oral cancer that spreads to a distant part of the body, the survival rate drops to 40 percent.

You can lower your risk of cancer by taking steps to build a healthy lifestyle. Here are some ways you can lower your risk for this disease, as well as improve your overall basic health:

  • Avoid using tobacco products. Tobacco has been tied to multiple cancers, and it is responsible for 90 percent of lung cancer deaths.
  • Stay physically active. Your physical activity is related to risk for colon and breast cancer. Excess weight gained from inactivity increases the risk of multiple cancers.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. It is important to be mindful of how much alcohol you drink. Alcohol intake, even in moderate amounts, can increase the risk for colon, breast, esophageal and oropharyngeal cancer.
  • Learn about screenings. Your primary care doctor can recommend appropriate cancer screenings based on your age, personal risk and family history.
  • Tobacco products, including snuff and chewing tobacco
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Chewing areca nut products, such as betel quid
  • Combined use of alcohol and tobacco
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection
  • Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds, which can cause lip cancer
  • For your first visit, you will be directed to the Head, Neck & Respiratory Clinic on the second floor of the Ben F. Roach Cancer Care Facility
  • You can register in the first floor registration area, where a Markey team member will help guide you through your appointment.
  • Several parking options are available to patients of Markey Cancer Center.
  • Please remember to bring your patient packet with the completed forms. These items will help your doctor learn more about your case and determine the best plan for your care.
  • To meet our patient needs, UK HealthCare accepts many forms of insurance.

Clinical trials are research studies aimed at evaluating medical, surgical or behavioral interventions to determine if a new treatment is safe and effective. 

At UK Markey Cancer Center, we are advancing cancer care and research to prevent, detect and treat cancer – one patient at a time. As a patient at Markey, you have a team of people looking at your individual case, applying the most recent cancer knowledge to give you the best chance of survival.

Markey has more open clinical trials than any other cancer center in the region, giving you access to some of the most advanced options available. Learn more about ongoing clinical trials for treating oral cancer.

NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center - A Cancer Center Designated by the National Cancer Institute

Markey Cancer Center is designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center – a distinction that recognizes our commitment to accelerating precision cancer research and care to patients. We are the first and only NCI-Comprehensive Cancer Center in Kentucky, and one of 57 in the nation.