Floor of Mouth Cancer

Floor of Mouth Cancer


Floor of mouth cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that begins when the cells that make up the floor of the mouth (the horseshoe-shaped area under the tongue) grow out of control and form lesions or tumors. These cancers are often mistaken for canker sores.

Using tobacco products, particularly chewing tobacco, and regularly drinking too much alcohol can increase your chances of developing cancer in the floor of your mouth. Dentists are typically the first to notice signs of floor of mouth cancer, often during a routine exam.

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The most common symptom of floor of mouth cancer is a sore in your mouth that keeps growing larger. Other signs of cancer in the floor of the mouth include:

  • white, red, or dark patches in the mouth
  • mouth pain
  • a lump in your neck

If you have any of these symptoms, chances are you don’t have cancer, but it’s a good idea to see your doctor if the symptoms don’t go away.

Floor of Mouth Cancer Treatment

Floor of mouth cancer is highly curable when diagnosed early. Treatment often involves surgery performed by a head and neck cancer surgeon.

The goals in the treatment of floor of mouth cancer are to:

  • cure the cancer
  • preserve your appearance and the functions of your mouth
  • prevent the cancer from coming back

The extent and depth of the cancer guides your plan of care. Your surgeon may only need to remove the tumor. In other cases, you may need surgery on your jawbone, called a mandibulectomy.

If the cancer is more advanced, radiation, chemotherapy, or both may be used to shrink the tumor before or after surgery to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. For some people, radiation may be the only treatment needed.

Mouth Cancer Treatment
MSK’s experts are among the most experienced in the nation at treating cancers that arise in the mouth. Learn about our approach to care.

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