Advanced Oral Cancer Treatments

Oral cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the tissues of the throat, mouth, tongue, gums, inner cheek lining, and the floor of the mouth. Most grow in the squamous cells found in your mouth, tongue, and lips.

Over 49,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year in the US, most often in people over 40 years old. Oral cancers are usually discovered after spreading to the lymph nodes of the neck. Early detection is key to surviving oral cancer. 

Locally advanced oral cancer treatments usually involve a combination of things, with surgery first and then radiation therapy, with or without chemotherapy.

The following are treatment options for locally advanced oral cancer. Your doctor will suggest treatments based on your needs and work with you to develop a treatment plan. They will typically do a nutritional assessment and dental assessment prior to starting advanced oral cancer treatments as well. You may need a feeding tube to ensure you get enough nutrition during treatment. It is also essential to have any necessary dental work done before treatment starts.

Advanced Oral Cancer Treatments: Surgery

Surgery to remove oral cancer tumors is usually done before other treatments, although the type of surgery used for each patient depends on the location of the tumor.

Wide local excision removes the tumor along with some of the normal tissue around it. The amount of tissue a surgeon removes during this procedure will vary according to the location of the tumor.

Glossectomy is surgery that removes part or all of the tongue.

Mandibulectomy is done for some tumors and involve removing part or all of the lower jawbone (known as the mandible).

Neck dissection removes lymph nodes from the patient’s neck and is common for advanced oral cancer treatments.

Reconstructive surgery may be needed for larger tumors. Reconstruction can be done using skin from other parts of the body (called a skin graft) or using tissue (skin, bone, muscle, or a combination of these) from another part of the body.

Advanced Oral Cancer Treatments: Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is often used as a locally advanced oral cancer treatment. Radiation therapy may be given as brachytherapy, external beam radiation therapy, or both. Sometimes a form of chemotherapy called chemoradiation is given along with radiation therapy.

Advanced Oral Cancer Treatments: Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy is another form of advanced oral cancer treatment and can be effective in both early and advanced stages of cancer. Targeted therapy drugs bind to specific proteins on oral cancer cells and interfere with their growth.

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