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Oral cancer survival statistics

One-, five- and ten-year survival statistics for oral cancer by age and trends over time are presented here. There are also data by stage at diagnosis and by deprivation. There is no standard definition of oral cancer and different studies report data using different combinations of ICD codes so caution needs to be used when making comparisons between analyses. Unless otherwise stated, the ICD codes for oral cancer used on this page are ICD-10 C00-C06, C09-C10 and C12-C13 (which include the lip, tongue, oropharynx, oral cavity and hypopharynx).

The statistics on these pages give an overall picture of survival. Unless otherwise stated, the statistics include all adults diagnosed with oral cancer, at all ages, stages and co-morbidities. The survival time experienced by an individual patient may be much higher or lower, depending on specific patient and tumour characteristics. If you are a patient, you will probably find our CancerHelp pages more relevant and useful.

The latest survival statistics available for oral cancer England and Wales are 1996-1999 (followed up to 2001). Find out why these are the latest statistics available.


Five-year survival

Five-year survival rates for cancers of the lip, oral cavity, tongue, oropharynx and hypopharynx are shown in Figure 3.1 for men and women diagnosed in1991-95 and 1996-99.1 The best outcome was for cancer of the lip with over 90% of patients surviving five years and most of these will be cured. The five-year rates for lip cancer improved slightly for both men and women during the 1990s. The lowest survival was for hypopharyngeal tumours. In general, prognosis worsens with increasing inaccessibility of the tumour. For cancers of both the tongue and oral cavity, women had higher survival rates than men. In the case of tongue cancer there was an 11% difference (55 v 44%) for patients diagnosed in 1996-99, for cancers of the oral cavity it was 8% (55 v 48%) for 1996-99 patients.

Figure 3.1: Comparison of age-standardised 5 year relative survival rates for patients diagnosed in 1991-1995 and 1996-1999, England and Wales

section reviewed 09/11/09
section updated 09/11/09


By age

As for most cancers, survival is better for younger than older patients as shown in Figure 3.2 for cancers of the oral cavity, oropharynx and tongue.1

Figure 3.2: Five-year relative survival by age, cancers of the oral cavity, oropharynx and tongue, 1996-1999 patients England and Wales

section reviewed 09/11/09
section updated 09/11/09


By stage at diagnosis

Many oral cancers present at a late stage as illustrated in Table 3.1 using data from the south and west of England for patients diagnosed in 1996-2000.2 Patients with early disease can be cured, but for those with metastatic disease, the aim is to contain the disease and maximise quality of life. The survival statistics shown here, unless otherwise stated, include all types of cases of the disease, early and late, and should be used as a general guide only.

Table 3.1: Stage and two-year crude survival, cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, South and West of England, 1996-2000

section reviewed 09/11/09
section updated 09/11/09


By deprivation

When the five-year survival rates for 1986-90 patients were analysed by deprivation category, there were significant differences between the most affluent and most deprived groups for cancers of the tongue, oropharynx and oral cavity (Table 3.2).3

After the improvement in survival over time was analysed by deprivation group, it became clear that most of the improvement had occurred in the affluent group. Five-year relative oral cancer survival rates increased from 43 to 55% between 1971-75 and 1986-90 for the affluent patients compared with a very small increase over the same time period of 42 to 44% for the most deprived patients.3

Table 3.2: Comparison of survival in affluent and deprived patients, 1986-90, England and Wales

section reviewed 09/11/09
section updated 09/11/09

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References for oral cancer survival

  1. For data for 1991-1999:Office for National Statistics (ONS). Cancer Survival: England and Wales, less common cancers by age group. London: ONS; 2005 South West Public Health Observatory.
  2. South West Cancer Intelligence Service. 2005
  3. For data for 1971-1990: Coleman MP, Babb P, Damiecki P, et al. Cancer Survival Trends in England and Wales, 1971-1995: Deprivation and NHS Region. Series SMPS No 61. London: ONS; 1999.
Updated: 3 September 2012