Oral & Oropharyngeal Cancer Awareness

Oral and oropharyngeal (back of mouth) cancer refers to cancers of the mouth, lips, tongue or throat area. If these cancers are detected early and before they have spread to other tissues, the 5-year survival rate is almost 90%. Get the Facts. Reduce your Risk. Know What to Look For.

Did You Know?

Get the Facts:

  • There are 3 times as many cases of oral and oropharyngeal cancer compared to cervical cancer and 3 times as many deaths every year.
  • The fastest growing profile is sexually active males, ages 35 to 55, who often do not smoke or have any typical risk factors.
  • Males are most at risk, 4 to 1 over females.
  • Over 70% of oropharyngeal cancers and approximately 3.5% or oral cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the fastest growing sexually transmitted infection.
  • The HPV vaccination can be effective for those who have had a previous infection or may be older.
  • The combination of alcohol and smoking increases oral and oropharyngeal cancer risk 5-fold; heavy smoking and alcohol use carries a 30x higher risk.
  • The 2020 incidence rate for oropharyngeal cancer in Canada increased by 13.9% from corresponding 2015–2019 average rates.

Reduce Your Risk

  • Consider getting the HPV vaccine before becoming sexually active.
  • Limit your number of sexual partners to reduce the risk of an HPV infection.
  • Stop using tobacco or vaping products.
  • Limit alcohol consumption to 2 or fewer standard drinks per week.
  • Avoid combining tobacco and alcohol use.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Avoid unprotected exposure to the sun.
  • Schedule regular dental hygiene visits that include oral cancer screenings.
  • Perform regular oral self-examinations between dental hygiene appointments.

What to Look For?

  • Red or white patch in the mouth
  • Lump or thickening of tissue in the mouth, neck or face
  • Sore in the mouth, including under a denture or an appliance, that bleeds easily or does not heal within 14 days
  • Numbness or tingling in the mouth or face
  • Persistent earache in only one ear
  • Sore throat, cough or infection that persists or recurs
  • Hoarseness or change in speech
  • Pain or difficulty swallowing, speaking, chewing or moving the jaw or tongue
  • Wart-like masses inside the mouth
  • Lump in the throat or feeling like something is caught in the throat



Watch this video, developed by the Oral Cancer Foundation, to learn how to effectively examine your mouth for early signs of oral and oropharyngeal cancer.