Survival Rates for Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer

Survival rates are often used by doctors as a standard way of discussing a person’s prognosis (outlook). Some patients with cancer may want to know the survival statistics for people in similar situations, while others may not find the numbers helpful, or may even not want to know them. If you don’t want to read about the survival statistics for oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer, you don't have to..

The 5-year survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is diagnosed. Of course, many of these people live much longer than 5 years.

Five-year relative survival rates, such as the numbers below, assume that some people will die of other causes and compares the observed survival of people with cancer with that expected for people without cancer. This is a more accurate way to describe the impact that a particular type and stage of cancer may have on survival.

To get 5-year survival rates, doctors have to look at people who were treated at least 5 years ago. Improvements in treatment since then may result in a more favorable outlook for people now being diagnosed with these cancers.

Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they cannot predict what will happen in any individual’s case. Many other factors may affect a person’s outlook, such as the patient’s age and health, the treatment received, and how well the cancer responds to treatment. Your doctor can tell you how the numbers below may apply to you, because they are familiar with the aspects of your particular situation.

The following survival statistics come from the National Cancer Institute’s SEER program. They are based on large numbers of patients diagnosed between 2000 and 2014. SEER doesn’t provide recent statistics by AJCC stage. Instead, cancers are divided into the summary stages:

  • Local: the cancer is only in the area where it started. This includes stages I and II, as well as some stage III cancers that haven’t spread to any lymph nodes.
  • Regional: the cancer has spread to nearby tissues and/or lymph nodes. This includes some stage III cancers, as well as stage IV cancers that haven’t spread to distant sites
  • Distant: the cancer has spread to distant sites

Also, these statistics are based on the stage of the cancer when it was first diagnosed. They do not apply to cancers that have come back or spread, for example.

Lip

Stage

5-Year Relative Survival Rate

Local

93%

Regional

48%

Distant

52%

Tongue

Stage

5-Year Relative Survival Rate

Local

78%

Regional

63%

Distant

36%

Floor of the mouth

Stage

5-Year Relative Survival Rate

Local

75%

Regional

38%

Distant

20%

Other cancers

For cancers of the oropharynx and tonsil, the relative 5-year survival rate was 66%, but survival by stage is not available.

For cancers of the gums and other parts of the mouth, the relative survival was 60%, but survival by stage is not available.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, et al (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2011, National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, http://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2011/, based on November 2013 SEER data submission, posted to the SEER web site, April 2014.

Last Medical Review: March 9, 2018 Last Revised: March 9, 2018

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