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Oral cancer
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Oral cancer

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Head or Neck

From MayoClinic.com


Doctors use surgery and radiation therapy to treat oral and throat cancer in the earliest stages. For cancer in more advanced stages, doctors use surgery combined with radiation therapy or radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy. Your treatment plan should be developed for you specifically based on multiple factors by an integrated team of physicians including surgeons, cancer specialists (oncologists) and oncologists who specialize in treating cancer with radiation (radiation oncologists).

  • Surgery. The type of surgery you may need depends on the size and location of the tumor. Tumors that haven't grown into nearby tissues can be surgically removed with relatively few side effects. However, if the tumor has invaded nearby tissues, the surgery is more extensive. Sometimes surgeons need to remove bone tissue from the jaw or the roof of the mouth. To treat a cancer of your tongue or the upper part of your throat, your surgeon may need to remove tissues that you use to swallow and in some cases your voice box (larynx). If the cancer has spread beyond your mouth, your surgeon may also need to remove lymph nodes in your neck.

  • Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses X-rays to kill cancer cells. Doctors may use it alone to treat small tumors or combined with chemotherapy to treat large tumors. Radiation therapy may also be used along with surgery to destroy small amounts of cancer cells that can't be removed during surgery.

  • Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. You take these drugs either through your veins (intravenously) or orally. The type of drugs and the length of treatment depend on the size and location of the tumor. In the case of a large and invasive tumor, chemotherapy may be used in combination with radiation therapy and in place of surgery.

Following removal of an extensive tumor, reconstructive surgery or speech pathology may enhance your recovery and rehabilitation.

Reconstructive surgery

The goal of reconstructive surgery is to improve your appearance and to help you adjust to difficulties you may have with chewing, swallowing, speaking or breathing. Sometimes you'll need grafts of skin or tissue from other parts of your body to rebuild areas in your mouth, throat or jaw. You also may need to have a dental prosthesis implanted to replace a part of your jaw removed during surgery. If you've had extensive surgery in your neck, you may also undergo surgery to create a hole in your neck (tracheostomy) to help you breathe more easily. If muscles you need for swallowing have been removed, you'll need surgery to create a hole in your abdomen (gastrostomy) in order to receive food directly into your stomach through a feeding tube.


Adjusting to life after surgery may mean working with a speech therapist and dietitian. A speech therapist can help you overcome problems with speech and swallowing. If you've lost the ability to speak, you can learn to speak by forcing air up through your esophagus (esophageal speech). Artificial devices also are available to help you speak or speak more loudly. A dietitian can help you choose foods that are suitable for you if you've lost some of your ability to chew and swallow. In addition, you may benefit from sessions with a physical therapist and occupational therapist to help you make adjustments in your personal life and work life.

 Oral and throat cancer  > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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