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Thousands of Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer every year, but many do not know what symptoms they should look out for or what the different stages entail. Catching early signs and seeking treatment quickly can be lifesaving. Here is what you should know about the various stages of oral cancer and how to prevent it.

Oral Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • Lumps in the mouth or on the lips
  • White or reddish specks
  • Swelling in the oral cavity
  • Sores on lips, mouth, or neck
  • Unexplained bleeding

Survival rates vary, depending on whether the cancer is on your lip, tongue, or oral cavity. It also depends on whether the cancer has metastasized or spread to other areas of the body. The stage of the cancer is also an important factor.

Stages of oral cancer typically depend on the size of the tumor and how much the cancer has spread.

Stage 0:

Abnormal cells are found in the oral cavity but have not developed into cancer yet.

Stage I:

A tumor 2 centimeters or smaller has developed in the oral cavity or lips with a tumor invasion of less than 5 milliliters.

Stage II:

A stage II tumor is between two and four centimeters large. The cancer may have also spread to a lymph node at this stage.

Stage III:

In stage III oral cancer, the tumor is either:

  • Larger than 4 centimeters across, but no cancer cells are present in nearby sites
  • In its original location, with cancer cells present in one or more lymph nodes

Stage 4:

Stage IV is the most advanced stage of oral cancer and is divided into three stages: IVA, IVB, and IVC.

Stage IVA

The tumor is larger than 10 milliliters or has spread to the outer surface of the jawbone, the sinus, or the skin of the face.

Stage IVB

The tumor has spread to the lymph nodes or into muscles and bones in the jaw or near the initial tumor.

Stage IVC

The tumor has spread to other parts of the body, such as the lung, liver, or bone.

How to Prevent Oral Cancer

While genetics can play a part in developing oral cancer, you can try to prevent it by practicing healthy habits, such as maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in physical activity, avoiding potential risk factors, and keeping a close eye on your health, even if you are at risk.

Risk factors for oral cancer include:

  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Stem cell transplantation

If you are concerned you are in any of the oral cancer stages or show symptoms of oral cancer, talk to Athens Oral Surgery as soon as possible.

Dr. Tomlinson can assess your condition and recommend you to healthcare professionals that can help treat your condition, regardless of what stage your cancer is in. Schedule an appointment with our team by calling 706-549-5033.