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Understanding the Types of Oral Cancer

Oral cancer can start in any part of the oral cavity (mouth) or oropharynx (throat). Most oral cancers develop first in the tongue or in the floor of the mouth. They may then spread to other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes and the lungs. There are a few types of oral cancers.

  • Squamous cell carcinoma. These account for about 90 percent of all oral cancers. The squamous cells make up the lining of the mouth and throat.

  • Verrucous carcinoma. This type of squamous cell cancer accounts for just five percent of all oral cavity tumors. It can grow into the surrounding tissue but rarely spreads to other parts of the body.

  • Minor salivary gland carcinomas. These tumors are found in the glands that produce saliva. There are a few different types of salivary gland tumors including adenoid cystic carcinoma, mucoepidermoid carcinoma, and polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma.

“What You Need to Know About Oral Cancer.” National Cancer Institute,  December 23, 2009. www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/oral/page3 Accessed 2013.

“Detailed Guide: Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer: What Is Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer?” American Cancer Society, September 28, 2007. www.cancer.org/Cancer/OralCavityandOropharyngealCancer/DetailedGuide/oral-cavity-and-oropharyngeal-cancer-what-is-oral-cavity-cancer Accessed 2013.

“Detailed Guide: Salivary Gland Cancer: What Is Salivary Gland Cancer?” American Cancer Society, September 21, 2012. www.cancer.org/Cancer/SalivaryGlandCancer/DetailedGuide/salivary-gland-cancer-what-is-salivary-gland-cancer Accessed 2013.

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