What to Know About Chemotherapy for Oral Cancer
Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs. These drugs kill or slow the growth of the cancer cells. You may get chemotherapy to treat oral cancer. That’s especially true if cancer has spread beyond the first tumor in your mouth. The first tumor that you have is called the primary tumor.1
The doctor who treats you with chemotherapy is called a medical oncologist.2 If you get chemotherapy for oral cancer, you may get more than one drug. This is called combination chemotherapy.1
These are some of the benefits from chemotherapy:
It is systemic. That means that the drugs travel through your whole body. Because the medicines spread, they may be able to kill cancer cells that have spread on a microscopic level. That’s not true if you only have surgery or radiation. Those treatments only kill the cells in the specific place that is treated. That means that they don’t kill any cancer cells that may have escaped that place. Those escaped cells can grow elsewhere in your body.4
It can make a tumor smaller before surgery.5
It can help destroy cancer cells remaining after surgery.5
It can improve the effects of radiation.5
If you’re getting chemotherapy, there are a number of different drugs your doctor may choose from.5 You may want to know their common side effects. Your doctor and chemotherapy nurse will give you the details of your treatment.
1 “Treating Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer: Chemotherapy” American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/OralCavityandOropharyngealCancer/DetailedGuide/oral-cavity-and-oropharyngeal-cancer-treating-chemotherapy Accessed 2010.
2 “Glossary Search.” American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerGlossary/index Accessed 2010.
3 National Cancer Institute dictionary. http://www.cancer.gov/Common/PopUps/popDefinition.aspx?id=45650&version=Patient&language=English. Accessed 2010.
4 “Understanding Chemotherapy: A Guide for Patients and Families.” American Cancer Society, June 10, 2008. http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003025-pdf.pdf Accessed 2010.
5 “Chemotherapy and You.” National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/chemotherapy-and-you.pdf Accessed 2010.