Oral Cancer (cont.)
In this Article
- What is the oral cavity?
- What is cancer?
- Who's at risk for oral cancer?
- What are the symptoms of oral cancer?
- How is oral cancer diagnosed?
- How is oral cancer treated?
- Methods of treatment
- What are the side effects of treatment for oral cancer?
- What is rehabilitation for oral cancer?
- What happens after treatment for oral cancer?
- What does the future hold for patients with oral cancer?
- What resources are available to patients with oral cancer?
- Oral Cancer At A Glance
- Find a local Oncologist in your town
Methods of treatment
Oral cancer treatment may include surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. Some patients have a combination of treatments.
At any stage of disease, people with oral cancer may have treatment to control pain and other symptoms, to relieve the side effects of therapy, and to ease emotional and practical problems. This kind of treatment is called supportive care, symptom management, or palliative care. Information about supportive care is available on NCI's Web site at http://cancer.gov and from NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER.
You may want to talk to the doctor about taking part in a clinical trial, a research study of new treatment methods. The section on "The Promise of Cancer Research" has more information about clinical trials.
Surgery to remove the tumor in the mouth or throat is a common treatment for oral cancer. Sometimes the surgeon also removes lymph nodes in the neck. Other tissues in the mouth and neck may be removed as well. Patients may have surgery alone or in combination with radiation therapy.
You may want to ask the doctor these questions before having surgery:
Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) is a type of local therapy. It affects cells only in the treated area. Radiation therapy is used alone for small tumors or for patients who cannot have surgery. It may be used before surgery to kill cancer cells and shrink the tumor. It also may be used after surgery to destroy cancer cells that may remain in the area.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Doctors use two types of radiation therapy to treat oral cancer:
- External radiation: The radiation comes from a machine. Patients go to the hospital or clinic once or twice a day, generally 5 days a week for several weeks.
- Internal radiation (implant radiation): The radiation comes from radioactive material placed in seeds, needles, or thin plastic tubes put directly in the tissue. The patient stays in the hospital. The implants remain in place for several days. Usually they are removed before the patient goes home.
Some people with oral cancer have both kinds of radiation therapy.
You may want to ask the doctor these questions before having radiation therapy:
Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells. It is called systemic therapy because it enters the bloodstream and can affect cancer cells throughout the body.
Chemotherapy is usually given by injection. It may be given in an outpatient part of the hospital, at the doctor's office, or at home. Rarely, a hospital stay may be needed.
You may want to ask the doctor these questions before having chemotherapy:
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