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Coping with an Oral Cancer Diagnosis

There are very few things scarier than being told you have oral cancer. It can affect the lips, tongue, mouth, and throat. You may feel like you’re in shock. You may not even want to believe what the doctor has told you. And there are probably so many questions you want to ask but think you can’t because you don’t know where to start.

First of all, it’s okay to be overwhelmed. And it’s okay to feel afraid. But you shouldn’t let those feelings stop you from finding out as much as you can about your cancer and about the options you have. Because the more you know, the less helpless and afraid you will feel. And the more you know, the better you will be able to work with your healthcare team to make the best choices for your treatment.

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To decide the best course of treatment, your doctor needs to know as much as possible about your cancer. This will involve getting a variety of tests and working with a team of healthcare professionals.

The main treatment options are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and newer targeted therapies. These may be used either alone or in combination, depending on the stage and location of the tumor.

After the cancer is discovered and staged, your doctor will discuss treatment choices with you. It is important to take time and think about your options. When you choose a treatment plan, consider your overall health, the type and stage of the cancer, the chances of curing the disease, and the impact of the treatment on functions like speech, chewing, and swallowing.

It can be helpful to seek a second opinion. A second opinion can provide more information and help you feel more comfortable with the treatment plan you select.

“Oral Cancer.” American Cancer Society, 2007. http://www.cancer.org/downloads/PRO/OralCancer.pdf. Accessed 2010.

“Coping With Cancer in Everyday Life: The Emotional Impact of a Cancer Diagnosis.” American Cancer Society. July 18, 2012. http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/emotionalsideeffects/copingwithcancerineverydaylife/a-message-of-hope-emotional-impact-of-cancer. Accessed 2013.

“How are Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancers Treated.” American Cancer Society. June 18, 2013. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/oralcavityandoropharyngealcancer/detailedguide/oral-cavity-and-oropharyngeal-cancer-treating-general-info Accessed 2013.

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