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What is the prognosis for oral cancer?

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Quick Answer

The prognosis for oral cancer depends on its location and stage and ranges from a five-year relative survival rate of 93 percent to 20 percent for first-time cancer patients, according to the American Cancer Society. For local tongue cancer that has not spread, the five-year survival rate is 78 percent, while local cancer in the floor of the mouth has a rate of 75 percent. Local lip cancer has a 93 percent five-year survival rate.

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Full Answer

If the cancer is at stage 3 or stage 4 and has spread to lymph nodes or surrounding tissue, the five-year survival rate declines significantly, notes the American Cancer Society. The survival rate for lip cancer is 48 percent, while the survival rate for floor of the mouth cancer at this stage is 38 percent. The regional tongue cancer five-year survival rate is 63 percent.

Distant cancer has spread to areas far away from the origin site, explains the American Cancer Society. The survival rates for cancer that has spread are 20 percent for floor of the mouth cancer, 36 percent for tongue cancer and 52 percent for lip cancer.

Oral cancer may not produce pain or recognizable symptoms and is more likely to produce more than one tumor, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. It often appears as a patch of skin discoloration or an ulcer that takes longer than two weeks to heal. Ninety percent of all oral cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. Risk factors for developing oral cancer include tobacco consumption, regular alcohol use, and infections from the human papillomavirus.

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