We assessed the pretreatment health-related quality of life (HRQOL) and functional status of patients with advanced oral and oropharyngeal cancer. Eighty patients were investigated. HRQOL was assessed by EORTC QLQ-C30/QLQ-H&N35 questionnaires. Functional status assessment comprised speech and oral function tests. The results revealed a wide range of HRQOL and functional deficits before treatment. HRQOL appeared to be related to some extent to tumor site (patients with oral tumors reported more pain compared to patients with oropharyngeal tumors) and tumor classification (patients with T3-T4 tumors reported more trouble opening the mouth and felt more ill compared to patients with T2 tumors). Comorbidity appeared to have a major impact. Patients with comorbidity had significantly worse scores on several scales/items on both the EORTC questionnaires. Functional deficits were related to tumor site, classification and comorbidity. Patients with oral cavity tumors (versus oropharyngeal tumors), patients with T3-T4 tumors (versus T2 tumors), and patients with comorbidity (versus without comorbidity) scored significantly worse on several speech and oral function tests. Impaired speech and oral function appeared to be clearly related to global quality of life (QLQ-C30) and self-reported speech (QLQ-H&N35). Many patients with advanced oral and oropharyngeal cancer have compromised HRQOL and functional status before the start of treatment. In addition to tumor site and tumor classification, comorbidity appears to have a major impact on HRQOL and functional status. Knowledge of pretreatment HRQOL and functional status levels is useful for better understanding the impact of treatment on these outcomes over time.