Oral Cancer Treatment and Prevention
To treat oral cancer, doctors may administer one or more of three primary treatment modalities: surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
If surgery is the chosen treatment, the extent of the surgery depends upon the stage and grade of the cancer. In some progressive cases, surgery may involve removal of tumors in the jaw or roof of the mouth bone tissue. If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body (such as the lymph nodes) then the tumors in those areas may be removed as well. The doctor may remove tumors in the neck area by performing neck dissection.
If surgery is not an option or is not otherwise necessary, doctors may opt to use radiation therapy (a form of X-ray) or chemotherapy (intravenous or oral drugs). Multimodal treatments may incorporate one or more of the aforementioned modalities. For example, radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be used to destroy any remaining cancer that surgery was unable to remove.
Following extensive cancer treatment, patients may need to undergo plastic reconstructive surgery and speech therapy to improve the appearance and functionality of the affected area. Some patients require the use of devices to speak properly.
If you have cancer, it is important to learn as much about your disease as possible. Whether you suffer from a common cancer like nonmelanoma skin cancer or an extremely rare cancer like mesothelioma, you can access a great deal of helpful information online or by contacting The National Cancer Institute at (800) 4-CANCER or (800) 422-6237 or contacting the American Cancer Society at (800) ACS-2345 or (800) 227-2345.
Any irritation of the mouth, gums or tongue may increase the risk of oral cancer. You are advised to perform periodic self-examinations of your mouth, gums, tongue and cheeks to check for the presence of any abnormalities.
Self-examination recommendations begin with an oral examination of the mouth, including checking the:
- Tongue (above and below)
- Roof of the mouth
- Turning the lips up and down to view the inner tissue surfaces
However, since symptoms associated with oral cancer may be confused with other medical conditions, self examinations should not replace seeing a dentist and dental hygienist for oral care maintenance at least twice a year. When used in conjunction, periodic self-examination and regular dental hygiene visits can help promote early-stage detection of oral cancer. And remember, it is always best to see both a doctor and dentist to properly evaluate symptoms.