While the symptoms of inner cheek cancer can be hard to spot, a dentist can help monitor your overall oral health.

Inner cheek cancer is also called buccal mucosa cancer. It’s a rare type of oral cancer that typically develops in the thin cells that line your inner cheeks. Surgery is the most common treatment for inner cheek cancer.

Keep reading to learn about the symptoms, treatment options, and more.

Like other oral cancers, inner cheek cancer typically has no symptoms in the earlier stages. When symptoms develop in later stages, they can include:

How do you check for cheek cancer?

You normally can’t spot inner cheek cancer in your mouth until later stages. It’s common for dentists to be the first to spot inner cheek cancer because they look closely at your mouth.

Keeping regular dental visits can help check for cheek cancer and ensure it’s found early if it ever develops.

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Inner cheek cancer is commonly associated with the use of cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars, and other types of tobacco. It’s most common in males between the ages of 50 and 80.

Tobacco use isn’t the only risk factor for inner cheek cancer. Additional potential causes include:

There might be a link between the human papillomavirus (HPV) and inner cheek cancer. HPV is known to cause multiple types of cancer. It hasn’t been proven to cause inner cheek cancer — or increase the risk for it — but researchers are investigating a potential link.

When inner cheek cancer is found early, it’s typically treated with surgery. During surgery, the tumor is removed with a scalpel. Sometimes, the surgeon will be able to go through the inside of your cheek to remove small tumors, preventing damage to the skin.

Additional treatments can include:

  • Jaw reconstruction surgery: Large tumors are normally removed through an incision in your cheek. Jaw reconstruction uses a flap of skin from another area of your body to reconstruct your cheek.
  • Lymph node removal: Inner cheek cancer can spread to the lymph nodes. They need to be surgically removed when this happens.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy can kill cancer cells. It’s often used after surgery to lessen the risk of cancer returning. It can also be used to slow tumor growth when surgery isn’t an option.

The survival rates for inner cheek cancer depend on multiple factors. The stage at diagnosis, the person’s age, and their overall health, genetics, and response to treatment can all make a difference in the outcome. Inner cheek cancer is relatively rare, and statistics might not be as reliable as they are for other cancer types.

In one study analyzing a group of people with inner cheek cancer, the overall 5-year survival rate for inner cheek cancer was 54.1%. For people diagnosed during stage 1, the 5-year survival rate went up to 85.2%. In stage 4, the 5-year survival rate was 42.6%.

Your doctor or oncology team can help you understand the factors affecting your outlook.

Finding support

Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be frightening and stressful. But, there are organizations you can turn to for resources, community, and support. People who’ve received a diagnosis of inner cheek cancer can look into:

  • Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer (SPOHNC): SPOHNC has chapters all around the country that can connect you with support, medical care, and more. They also have resources on their site, such as educational materials and links to clinical trials.
  • The Oral Cancer Foundation: The Oral Cancer Foundation can help you navigate insurance, find financial resources, get matched with medical professionals, and more.
  • Head and Neck Cancer Alliance: The Head and Neck Cancer Alliance is as online forum where you can connect with others to share stories, ask questions, and get support.
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Inner cheek cancer is a rare type of oral cancer. It doesn’t typically cause symptoms in the early stages, but it can sometimes be identified during dental visits before symptoms develop.

Treatment commonly involves surgery to remove the tumor. Sometimes, chemotherapy is also used. Survival depends on the stage at diagnosis and individual factors such as age, overall health, and response to treatment.