Oral cancer is part of a group of cancers called head and neck cancers. Oral cancer can develop in any part of the oral cavity or oropharynx. Most oral cancers begin in the tongue and in the floor of the mouth. Almost all oral cancers begin in the flat cells (squamous cells) that cover the surfaces of the mouth, tongue, and lips. These cancers are called squamous cell carcinomas. When oral cancer spreads (metastasizes), it usually travels through thelymphatic system. Cancer cells that enter the lymphatic system are carried along by lymph, a clear, watery fluid. The cancer cells often appear first in nearby lymph nodes in the neck. Cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the neck, the lungs, and other parts of the body. When this happens, the new tumor has the same kind of abnormal cells as the primary tumor. For example, if oral cancer spreads to the lungs, the cancer cells in the lungs are actually oral cancer cells. The disease is metastatic oral cancer, not lung cancer. It is treated as oral cancer, not lung cancer. Doctors sometimes call the new tumor "distant" or metastatic disease. Early detection : Your regular checkup is a good time for your dentist or doctor to check your entire mouth for signs of cancer. Regular checkups can detect the early stages of oral cancer or conditions that may lead to oral cancer. Ask your doctor or dentist about checking the tissues in your mouth as part of your routine exam. Symptoms Common symptoms of oral cancer include : Patches inside your mouth or on your lips that are white, a mixture of red and white, or red White patches (leukoplakia) are the most common. White patches sometimes become malignant. Mixed red and white patches (erythroleukoplakia) are more likely than white patches to become malignant. Red patches (erythroplakia) are brightly colored, smooth areas that often become malignant. A sore on your lip or in your mouth that won't heal Bleeding in your mouth Loose teeth Difficulty or pain when swallowing Difficulty wearing dentures A lump in your neck An earache Treatment : Many people with oral cancer want to take an active part in making decisions about their medical care. It is natural to want to learn all you can about your disease and your treatment choices. However, shock and stressafter the diagnosis can make it hard to think of everything you want to ask the doctor. It often helps to make a list of questions before an appointment. To help remember what the doctor says, you may take notes or ask whether you may use a tape recorder. You may also want to have a family member or friend with you when you talk to the doctor -- to take part in the discussion, to take notes, or just to listen. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist, or you may ask for a referral.Specialists who treat oral cancer include oral and maxillofacial surgeons, otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat doctors), medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and plastic surgeons. You may be referred to a team that includes specialists in surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. Other health care professionals who may work with the specialists as a team include a dentist, speech pathologist, nutritionist, and mental healthcounselor.