Oral Cancers

Oral Cancers

Mouth Cancer and Tongue Cancer

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Duke doctors use a comprehensive and personalized approach to detect and treat cancers that grow in your oral cavity, including your mouth, tongue, and palate. We use sophisticated surgical techniques to remove the tumor and do everything we can to preserve your ability to function and resume your normal life.

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The Best Care for Oral Cancers

Oral cancers can occur on the lips, tongue, inner cheeks, floor of the mouth, and palate. They need early diagnosis and prompt treatment to ensure the best possible outcome.

Our doctors and surgeons work closely with patients who experience mouth cancer, tongue cancer, and other oral cancers. We are expertly equipped in a range of surgical techniques to remove tumors while preserving your ability to speak and function normally. We work as a team, incorporating specialists in ear, nose, and throat surgery; medical and radiation oncology; reconstructive surgery; oral surgery; and dentistry. Our goal is to create a personalized treatment plan for the stage and type of your oral cancer. We do our best to treat your mouth cancer or tongue cancer and return you to your daily activities as quickly as possible

Our Locations
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.



Removes the tumor, affected parts of the oral cavity, lymph nodes, and surrounding tissues, depending on the type and size of the tumor and whether the tumor has spread. Our surgeons use a wide range of surgical approaches, including laser surgery, which can reduce bleeding. They also use robotic tools to increase their precision and visualization and allow them to remove hard-to-reach tumors. You may be able to participate in an experimental procedure, now being tested in clinical trials, that is evaluating the benefits of removing oral cancers using robotic tools through the mouth, rather than a surgically through the neck.

Radiation Therapy

MRI and CT imaging technology pinpoints the precise location of the tumor, and we target it with beams of high-energy X-rays that destroy cancer cells. This image-guided approach, used before and after surgery, minimizes damage to surrounding healthy tissue.


Medicines are used to kill or slow the growth of the tumor. May be recommended if your cancer has spread.

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A small sample of tissue is removed and examined under a microscope to look for the presence of cancer.

Advanced Imaging

CT, MRI, and PET scans may be used to locate and identify the type of cancer and to determine whether it has spread. We use the latest MRI technology to ensure superior imaging, and CT scans to produce superior results with less exposure to radiation.


 A lighted tube is inserted in the mouth to identify cancer and determine its extent, how big it is, and what structures are involved.

Bone Scan

Radioactive material is injected into a vein and travels through the bloodstream. A scan of the radioactive material determines if the cancer has spread to the bone.

Among the Best Cancer Hospitals in U.S.
Where you receive your cancer care is important. Duke University Hospital's cancer program is ranked among the nation's best by U.S. News & World Report for 2019–2020.

Experts in Mouth Cancer and Tongue Cancer

Nationally-Ranked Cancer Program
As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, we are recognized for exploring new treatment opportunities through ongoing clinical trials. We offer you the latest research discoveries before they are available elsewhere.

Access to Ongoing Research
You may be eligible to participate in our clinical trials, which may help you or others with oral cancers.

A Comprehensive Team
Our specialists -- including otolaryngologists who are experts in head and neck surgery; medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists; dentists; reconstructive surgeons; and oral surgeons -- work together to ensure you receive the best possible care for your mouth cancer or tongue cancer. Specially trained nurses, occupational therapists, and speech pathologists help you recover and resume your daily activities.

Experienced Radiologists
Our radiologists are specially trained to read images for tracheal cancer and have experience based on doing just that on a regular basis. We use MRI as well as CT scans, which produce superior quality images with lower doses of radiation exposure.

Support for You
Our comprehensive support services help you minimize the side effects of treatment and cope with the emotional and psychological effects of diagnosis and care. View our cancer support groups in our event calendar.

Patient Resources