Oral Cancer Treatments

Oral cancer refers to any cancers on the lip, tongue, inner lining of the cheeks, or the roof or base of the inside of the mouth. Oral cancers are classified as a head or neck cancer. The risk for oral cancer is higher if you are a smoker, use chewing tobacco or other tobacco products, have HPV (a certain type of sexually transmitted disease), drink alcohol heavily or have had a great amount of sun exposure to the mouth.

Symptoms of oral cancer include sores that do not heal, white or red patches in the mouth, thick inner lining in the mouth, painful chewing, loose teeth, painful jaw, difficulty chewing or swallowing, sore throat or feeling that something is stuck in your throat.

There are numerous tests that can help diagnose oral cancers. Often times your doctor or dentist can detect signs of oral cancer during an examination of your mouth. If oral cancer is suspected, a biopsy can be done to determine whether or not there are cancer cells present.

This is done by scraping or removing abnormal tissue with special tools or with a scalpel for lab testing. If cancer is present, then further tests are done to determine the stage of the cancer. One type of test may include an endoscopy, where a scope is inserted through the mouth and down the throat to get a better view. Imaging tests such as a CT scan, MRI or PET scan can also give a better image of the stage of cancer and ultimately decide oral cancer treatment options.

In the unfortunate event that cancer is present, the treatment of oral cancer will vary based on the type that you have and what stage the cancer is in.

Stages of cancer are given in Roman Numerals I through IV. A stage I cancer would mean that the cancer is in a small confined area and can be treated easily, whereas a stage IV cancer may require removal of larger tumors and treatment of cancer that may have spread to other parts of the head or neck.

One oral cancer treatment option is surgery to remove cancerous tissue or tumors. If you have a stage I or II cancer, surgery may be minimal, removing cancerous cells completely. In higher stage cancers, oral cancer treatment surgery may involve removal of tumors and portions of surrounding healthy tissue. It may even involve removing lymph nodes in the neck or portions of the jaw, to ensure the cancer is gone.

Radiation therapy is used in low stages of cancer when surgery is not required and is also used in high stage cancers after surgery is done to ensure all cancer cells are killed. Oral cancer treatment may also involve drug therapies, such as chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy is a chemical drug used to kill cancer cells in all stages of cancer. This may also be used in conjunction with lifestyle and diet changes to help cure your cancer. Some drugs specifically targeted to slow the speed of cancer growth may also be used along with other oral cancer treatment options.

If the surgeon had to remove portions of the tongue or jaw, there are reconstructive surgery options to help restore facial structure and your ability to speak and eat.

Before, during and after cancer diagnosis and treatment, it is important to make lifestyle changes that will help to heal your cancer and prevent it from returning.

For example, smokers and tobacco users will need to stop using these products in an effort to prevent and heal cancer. Patients who consume large quantities of alcohol will need to reduce or stop drinking. Diet and stress management is also advised to promote overall health, and onsultation with your doctor is always recommended.

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