Cancer of the mouth, tongue and face

"We have a unit specialized in oncological and reconstructive head and neck surgery. We are pioneers in the use of robotic surgery for laryngeal cancer."


Cancer of the mouth, tongue and lips constitutes 5-8% of all cancers in the body. It mainly affects male smokers between the ages of 45-65.

The most frequent location is on the mobile tongue and shows a tendency to locally invade neighboring structures. It can produce metastasis in the lymph nodes of the neck.

At the Clinic you will be treated by a team consisting of all the specialists involved in the care of a patient with oral or facial cancer.

We perform an intraoperative assessment of the margins, in collaboration with the Department of Pathological Anatomy to achieve maximum removal of the cancer during surgery.

In addition, we perform immediate reconstruction in collaboration with the Plastic Surgery and Otolaryngology Departments to minimize the physical impact that this type of tumor entails.

We start the radiotherapy treatment in the same intervention (brachytherapy catheters) in collaboration with the Radiation Oncology Department to start the treatment as soon as possible with the least number of sessions necessary and less side effects for the patient.


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What are the symptoms of mouth, tongue and face cancer?

Most oral cancers can be seen with the naked eye.

Special attention should be paid to patients with predisposing lesions of the oral mucosa (leukoplakia, lichen planus, etc.). 

The appearance of an oral cancer is a wound that does not heal over the weeks. Therefore, if you have an oral mucosal ulcer that does not close within 10-15 days you should consult your doctor.

The definitive diagnosis is established with the taking of a sample by means of biopsy and its analysis.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Injury in the whitish and/or bleeding mouth that does not heal.

Do you have any of these symptoms?

You may have cancer of the mouth or face

What are the risk factors?

The most important risk factors are:

  • Tobacco and alcohol consumption.
  • Excessive local pressure (poorly placed teeth or dentures).
  • Poor oral hygiene.
  • Prolonged exposure to the sun without protection.
  • Chronic infections.

What are the types of cancer?

There are various types of maxillofacial cancer that differ greatly in their presentation and handling: salivary glands, melanomas, sarcomas, etc.

The most common cancer of the oral cavity is epidermoid or squamous cell carcinoma.

Verrucous carcinoma is a type of squamous cell carcinoma that appears in less than 5% of all cancers of the mouth. It is a low-grade cancer that grows slowly and rarely spreads to other parts of the body, although it can grow deep into adjacent tissue.

How is cancer of the mouth, tongue and face diagnosed?

Imagen del PET-TAC. Clínica Universidad de Navarra

The diagnosis is based on the exploration and performance of a magnetic resonance imaging, CT, PET, ultrasound with biopsy and the study of the sentinel node to assess whether there is involvement of lymph nodes and cancer has spread, if necessary.

The correct diagnosis helps to better plan treatment.


How is cancer of the tongue, mouth and face treated?

If the appropriate treatment is established, which must be multidisciplinary, the percentage of cure is very high.

It is necessary to combine surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. In addition, it is especially important, in this case, to have good support from the Nutrition and Pain Units.

Starting radiotherapy treatment early after surgery, having state-of-the-art equipment and using brachytherapy allow for better results and minimize risks.

The treatment of dental pathology before starting radiotherapy is very important to prevent complications (radionecrosis).

For the surgeon it is essential to know intraoperatively the state of the tumor margins and the presence or not of affected nodes.

Reconstruction is essential to allow the patient to regain his or her quality of life.

Various techniques are used, some more complex than others, such as microsurgery with grafts from various parts of the body, bone transport, dental implants, etc. 

In the Clinic we perform these reconstruction tasks immediately in collaboration with the Department of Plastic Surgery and the Department of Otolaryngology.

Where do we treat it?


The Head and Neck Cancer Area
of the Cancer Center Clínica Universidad de Navarra

In the Head and Neck Cancer Area we have a multidisciplinary approach, with all the professionals involved in the diagnosis, treatment and care of patients with head and neck tumors in order to offer the best possible treatment.

We have a unit specialized in oncological and reconstructive surgery of the head and neck. We are committed to minimally invasive endoscopic techniques and we are pioneers in the use of robotic surgery to perform more precise surgeries and minimize complications that may arise.

What diseases do we treat?

Imagen de la fachada de consultas de la sede en Pamplona de la Clínica Universidad de Navarra

Why at the Clinica?

  • Integral evaluation of the patient.
  • Cutting edge technology.
  • Expert professionals who are a national reference.

Our team of professionals