Oral cancer may occur in any part of the mouth, including the cheeks, gums, lips, tongue and the floor or roof of the mouth. When treated by a multidisciplinary team of experts at a high volume medical center, patients can have excellent outcomes.

Mouth Anatomy Diagram

What Are Some Risk Factors for Oral Cancer?

Oral cancers have several known risk factors and are more common in men than in women.

  • Tobacco use of any kind, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars, pipes and snuff
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Poor oral hygiene and chronic inflammation
  • Weakened immune system
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV, although much more common in cancers of the tonsil and base of tongue, is also a known risk factor for oral cancer. Excessive sun exposure to the lips


Regular oral cancer exams should be performed by your dentist and primary care doctor and can help with early detection. Signs and symptoms of oral cancer may include:

  • A sore that bleeds and/or doesn't heal
  • Mouth soreness or pain
  • A growth, lump or thickening of the lining of your mouth
  • Difficult and/or painful chewing or swallowing
  • Loose teeth
  • Poorly fitting dentures
  • Jaw discomfort and/or stiffness

If you have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, be sure to make an appointment with your doctor or dentist. Early detection of oral cancer is critical for your best possible outcome. Need help finding a primary doctor? Call 414-777-7700. We work with your schedule to get you an appointment as quickly as possible.


As part of the initial visit, the following tests may be used to detect, diagnose and stage a lip or oral cavity cancer.

  • Physical exam: Examining for any abnormalities of lips or oral cavity
  • Endoscopy: May be used to look for signs that the cancer has spread beyond the mouth
  • Biopsy: Sampling of tissue to be viewed under a microscope
  • Imaging: May include ultrasound, CT scan, MRI and/or a PET scan

Learn more about these head and neck cancer diagnostic techniques.

Unique Treatment Options

If a cancer diagnosis is confirmed, our experts work closely with you to determine the best course of treatment. Treatment options may depend on the following:

  • Stage of the cancer
  • Size and location of the tumor
  • Age and general health status
  • Treatment impact on function
  • Patient preferences and goals of treatment

Our team has specialized expertise in treating lip and oral cavity cancer, and we personalize care to a patient’s specific needs.

Your treatment may include the following based on your unique treatment plan.

Other treatments we offer that are unique to our program include:

Virtual Visits Are Available

Safe and convenient virtual visits by video let you get the care you need via a mobile device, tablet or computer wherever you are. We’ll gather your medical records for you and get our experts’ input so we can offer treatment options without an in-person visit. To schedule a virtual visit, call 1-866-680-0505.

Cancer and the COVID-19 Vaccine

There is currently no data that suggests current or former cancer patients should avoid getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Cancer can weaken your immune system, so we recommend that most patients get the vaccine as soon as possible. 

Nationally Ranked by U.S. News & World Report

Froedtert Hospital is nationally ranked in three adult specialties by U.S. News & World Report, including ear, nose and throat. Froedtert Hospital is also recognized as high performing in four adult specialties and 15 procedures and conditions.