BACKGROUND : Oral cancer is very common in India. The reported 5-year survival of such patients is around 50% after treatment with surgery and radiotherapy, much lower than most of the developed countries. METHODS : A retrospective study of a prospective database of oral cancer patients undergoing surgery from June 2009 to June 2013 was conducted. Follow-up details were updated from case records and by phone calls. Data were double entered in EpiData Entry version 3.1 and were analysed using EpiData Analysis software 22.214.171.124. RESULTS : Two-hundred and twenty patients were analysed (136 males); 85% were consuming tobacco, mainly in chewable form. The majority (51.1%) had tongue cancer, of whom 75 patients (34.1%) had T4 tumours. Postoperative radiotherapy was given to 108 patients (49.1%). Forty had recurrence, of which 23 were in early stage. Of these, 19 showed node positivity (p < 0.01). Node-negative patients had 79% 5-year survival while node positive had 59% which is comparable to that reported in developed countries. Median disease-free survival duration was 48.2 months. CONCLUSIONS : Node positivity is the single factor affecting recurrence and survival. The overall survival and disease-free survival is better in patients without lymph node involvement and in patients with early stage of cancer as compared to the patients with node involvement and in advanced stages.