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Oral Cancer

Treatment for Oral Cancer

Specific treatment for oral cancer will be determined by your physician based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the disease
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disease
  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Surgery
    • Different surgery techniques are used to remove specific types of oral tumors, including:
      • Primary tumor resection - removal of the entire tumor and surrounding area of tissue
      • Maxillectomy - removal of the tumor, including part or all of the hard palate (roof of the mouth), if bone is involved
      • Glossectomy - removal of the tongue
      • Mohs' micrographic surgery - removal of the tumor in "slices" to minimize amount of normal tissue removed (may be considered when the cancer involves the lip)
      • Laryngectomy - removal of a large tumor of the tongue or oropharynx, which may involve removing the larynx (voice box)
      • Neck dissection - if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, these lymph nodes may need to be removed as well.
  • Radiation therapy - treatment that uses high-energy rays that damage cancer cells and halts the spread of cancer. Radiation therapy is very localized, aimed at only the area where the cancer is present. Radiation therapy may be administered externally with a machine, or internally with radioactive materials.
  • Chemotherapy - medications that go throughout the entire body to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy has the ability to interfere with the cancer cell's replication. Chemotherapy may be used in combination with surgery and radiation therapy.
  • Targeted therapy - drugs that target specific cancer cells are also an option and often cause less side effects than chemotherapy that kills both cancerous and noncancerous cells. One such example is cetuximab (Erbitux) that targets epidermal growth factor receptors. 

Locations for Oral Cancer