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A Treatment Plan for Oral Cancer

Patients usually prefer to take an active role in their treatment plans. Choices for someone with oral cancer depend on the size and location of the tumor, and the stage or extent of the disease. The choice of treatment depends mainly on your general health, where in your mouth or oropharynx the cancer began, the size of the tumor, and whether the cancer has spread. Your doctor can describe your options and the anticipated results.

You should consider how treatment may affect activities such as swallowing and speaking, and whether it will affect your appearance. You and your doctor can work together to develop a treatment plan that meets your needs.

Types and Goals of Treatment

Oral cancer treatment may include surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. Some patients have a combination of the following treatments.

  • Surgery. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor from the oral cavity and from the lymph nodes when cancer has spread to them.

  • Radiation therapy. The goal of radiation is to kill cancer cells using X-rays. This treatment is sometimes used to shrink a tumor before surgery so that a smaller operation can be done or to get rid of any remaining cancer cells after surgery.

  • Chemotherapy. The goal of chemotherapy is to reduce the chance that the cancer will spread to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy can be given along with radiation to make it work better. It also may be given after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. If given after surgery, it is called adjuvant chemotherapy.

Doctors are always finding new ways to treat oral cancer. These new methods are tested in clinical trials. Before beginning treatment, a person should ask their doctor whether there are any clinical trials that they should consider.

“What You Need to Know About Oral Cancer: Treatment.” National Cancer Institute. U.S. National Institutes of Health. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/oral/page8#a Accessed 2013.

“Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer: Radiation Therapy for Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer.” American Cancer Society. February 26, 2013. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/oralcavityandoropharyngealcancer/detailedguide/oral-cavity-and-oropharyngeal-cancer-treating-radiation-therapy Accessed 2013.

“Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer: Chemotherapy for Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer.” American Cancer Society. February 26, 2013. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/oralcavityandoropharyngealcancer/detailedguide/oral-cavity-and-oropharyngeal-cancer-treating-chemotherapy Accessed 2013.

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