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Choosing the Best Oral Cancer Treatment
An oncologist and/or an oral surgeon will evaluate the diagnostic data and taking in concern the patient's general health condition will decide the proper mouth cancer treatment.
Oral cancer treatment options depend on the following:
The stage of the oral cancer.
The size of the malignancy and its location.
The potential effects of the treatment to the patient's appearance and ability to talk and eat after the procedure.
The patient's age and general health.
Treatment of oral cancers is ideally a multidisciplinary approach involving the efforts of surgeons, radiation oncologists, chemotherapy oncologists, dental practitioners, nutritionists, and rehabilitation and restorative specialists.
The actual curative treatments are usually surgery and radiation, with chemotherapy added to decrease the possibility of metastasis. Before starting the mouth cancer treatment, other oral health issues should be addressed first, in order to decrease the chance of developing post therapeutic complications.
We recommend to use the excellent service of 1-800-DENTIST in order to get an appointment with a local dental specialist as soon as possible, if you notice any suspicious sign in your mouth (for Oral Pathologists select 'Specialists' in the form field 'Dental Need').
Mouth Cancer Treatments
Oral cancer treatment follows the same methodology as with other types of cancer; that is with surgery to remove the cancerous growth followed by radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy (drug treatments) to destroy any remaining cancer cells. Doctors use surgery and radiation therapy to treat oral and throat cancer in the earliest stages. For cancer in more advanced stages, surgery combined with radiation therapy or radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy are used.
Oral cancer treatment options include:
Surgery is a common treatment for all stages of oral cavity cancers. The oral surgeon aims in removing the cancerous growth in its entirety (some of the healthy tissue around the tumor is removed also, to decrease the possibility of missing any cancerous cells). The type of oral cancer surgery needed depends on the size and location of the tumor. Doctors can surgically remove small surface tumors that haven't grown into nearby tissues with relatively small tissue damage. However, if the tumor has invaded nearby tissues, the operation is more extensive.
Sometimes surgeons need to remove bone tissue from the jaw or the roof of the mouth. To treat a tongue cancer or upper throat cancer, tissues used for swallowing and/or talking may have to be removed. If the oral cancer has spread beyond the mouth to the lymph nodes in the neck, they should also be removed.
Surgery for the removal of a small tumor from the mouth may not have any major side effects. However, extensive surgery will usually have a serious effect in chewing, swallowing, breathing and speaking. A prosthetic device may be required to replace removed portions of the teeth, gums and jaw. In more advanced cases, the process of feeding and breathing is permanently altered.
Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses X-rays to stop the growth and kill cancer cells. Doctors may use this therapy alone to treat small tumors or combined with chemotherapy to treat large tumors. This treatment is also often used after oral cancer surgery, to make sure that cancer cells that might have been left behind are destroyed.
Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is a mouth cancer treatment that uses drugs, taken intravenously or orally, to stop the cancer, either by killing the cancer cells or by stopping them from dividing. Radiation therapy and surgery can only treat localized and not widespread oral cancer. In these cases of large and invasive tumors, chemotherapy may be used in combination with radiation therapy and in place of surgery.
Whether a patient has surgery, radiation and surgery, or radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy, is dependent on the stage of development of the cancer.
Recovery and rehabilitation
Following removal of an extensive tumor, reconstructive surgery may help the patientís recovery and rehabilitation.
Reconstructive / plastic surgery. In patients with cancers diagnosed at an advanced stage, surgical removal of the disease may result in post treatment disfigurement. These cases of oral cancer may require reconstructive surgery to rebuild affected parts of the oral cavity and to restore functions as breathing, chewing, swallowing, feeding or speaking. Plastic surgery may follow to improve the patientís appearance.
Rehabilitation. If some of the mouth functions are not fully restored, adjustments should be made in the way of life. This may require the involvement of a physical therapist, speech therapist, dietician or other specialist to help the patient adjust to the new conditions. Patients who have had lip and oral cavity cancer have an increased risk of developing a second cancer in the head or neck. Frequent and careful follow-up is important.
How to Prevent Oral Cancer
Studies have shown that there are some ways to prevent oral cancer. They include the following:
Do not use tobacco products (smoking cigarettes, pipes, cigars or chewing tobacco). Tobacco in all forms is a main causative factor of mouth cancers.
Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol. Avoid especially the combination of tobacco and alcohol use. When tobacco use and alcohol use are combined the risk of oral caner increases 15 times more than non-users of tobacco and alcohol products. Tobacco and alcohol are by far the most important risk factors for oral and throat cancer. You can greatly reduce your risk by not smoking and limiting the amount of alcohol you drink.
Other steps you can take to minimize the risk for developing oral cancer and help prevent oral and throat cancer include:
Limit Exposure to the Sun. Prolonged exposure to the sun increases the risk of cancer on the lips, especially at a young age. Use sun protection during summer on your skin as well as your lips Use lip balm that contains sunscreen.
Diet - Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. A growing number of studies show that certain groups of food components seem to help prevent cancer. These chemo-protective agents, known as anti-oxidants, include vitamins C and E, and beta carotene. Fruits and vegetables are considered as foods that prevent mouth cancer because they are rich in these anti-oxidants.
Avoid irritation of mouth tissues. Don't chew on inner cheek or lips. Stop teeth grinding (bruxism). If you wear dentures, be sure they fit properly. Detecting oral cancer in the very early stages is CRITICAL.
Perform a self exam at least once a month, especially if you belong in the high risk groups (tobacco/ alcohol user, age >40). Ask your doctor to show you the best way to do the examination. Contact your dentist immediately if you notice anything abnormal in the mouth or neck. Oral and throat cancer can be successfully treated, but success depends on early detection.
Visit your dentist twice a year for regular check ups. Most dentists perform a thorough examination of your mouth during each visit. Ask your dentist to perform an oral cancer screening.
Even if these preventive actions can not totally exclude the possibility of developing an oral cancer, early detection can at least improve the prognosis after mouth cancer treatment.