Treatments for Oral Cancer

Treatments for Oral Cancer

by Alex Hirsch (SU)

Oral cancer is a serious threat and it deserves adequate medical attention. The American Cancer Society estimates that oral cancer will strike more than 50,000 people this year. Unfortunately, the survival rate after five years can be as low as 52%. 

The good news is modern medicine provides many options for treating oral cancer, so patients are far from defenseless from this disease. Knowing your treatment options can help you and your health care provider determine your best course of treatment.  

Surgery

The most straightforward treatment for oral cancer is the physical removal of cancerous tissue. Surgery allows doctors to eliminate nearly all of the cancer cells in the oral cavity. Surgery is the preferred option for well-defined tumors that haven't yet spread to other parts of the body. 

Of course, surgery also has drawbacks. It involves direct trauma to tissue since the diseased cells are cut out of the body. Surgeons have to remove healthy tissue near the tumor to ensure that as many cancer cells are detached as possible. 

For small tumors, surgery can be a minor operation that requires little recovery time. However, cancers that have started to spread may require extensive removal of parts of the jaw and face. In these cases, your surgeon may need to perform additional reconstructive surgery. 

Radiation Therapy

Radiation is also useful in destroying cancer cells. High-energy doses are used to target cancerous cells. The location of oral cancers can make it easier to undergo radiation therapy while protecting surrounding healthy tissue. 

Doctors may prescribe radiation therapy after surgery as an additional safeguard against any potentially remaining cancer cells. Your doctor may also prescribe radiation therapy before surgery to shrink the tumor and facilitate its removal.

Chemotherapy

Another conventional treatment for oral cancer is chemotherapy, which uses drugs that selectively kill cancer cells. Like radiation, the medications used in chemotherapy impacts cancer’s rapidly dividing cells more than other types of cells.

Chemotherapy can be useful when doctors prescribe it alongside other forms of treatment. However, it also tends to cause more side effects. Healthy cells are often damaged during chemotherapy. Common side effects of chemotherapy include hair loss, gastrointestinal upset, and a weakening of the immune system.

To reduce the negative impacts of chemotherapy, patients undergo treatment for short periods only. They typically have some time to recover between sessions, which allows the body to repair itself while still the treatment continues to target the cancerous tissue.

Comprehensive Dental Care

Oral cancer is a dangerous illness, but proper treatment can save lives. Doctors have various options at their disposal, including surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. A good treatment plan considers the costs and benefits of each option to select the combination that can work the best for each individual patient.

Located in Henderson, Nevada, Dedicated Dental provides comprehensive dentistry services that can improve your oral health. Our dentists are trained to detect signs and symptoms of oral cancer as a part of our regular dental checkups. If you have any questions about your oral health, call us at (702) 566-5509 or use our online form to request your appointment now.