Oral Cancer Treatments: Surgery, Radiation, and Reconstruction

Oral cancer is a type of cancer that affects tissues in the mouth and throat, and it is usually caused by smoking, chewing tobacco, excessive alcohol consumption, and exposure to human papillomavirus (HPV). Although the diagnosis of oral cancer can be scary, advances in science and medicine have led to many effective treatments. In this blog post, we will be discussing three common treatments for oral cancer: surgery, radiation, and reconstruction.

Surgery

Surgery is one of the most common treatments for oral cancer. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor and any surrounding tissue that may be affected by cancer. Depending on the location and severity of the cancer, your surgeon may need to remove part of your tongue, jaw, or throat. If needed, your surgeon may also remove lymph nodes to check if cancer has spread. After surgery, you may need to undergo reconstructive surgery to restore your appearance and function of your jaw.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to destroy cancer cells. This treatment is often used in combination with surgery to ensure that all cancer cells are eliminated. Radiation therapy can be delivered externally or internally. External radiation therapy involves the use of a machine that directs radiation directly to the cancer site, while internal radiation therapy involves the placement of radioactive material inside the body. The side effects of radiation therapy include dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, and skin irritation in the treatment area.

Reconstruction

Reconstruction is the process of restoring the structure and appearance of the jaw or face after cancer treatment. Reconstruction after oral cancer surgery is a complex process that requires a skilled team of surgeons and other healthcare professionals. Depending on the extent of the surgery, reconstruction may involve the use of implants or tissue from other parts of the body. Reconstruction can improve cosmetic appearance and restore function such as eating and talking.

Recovery

Recovery after oral cancer treatments can be a long and difficult process. Many patients need to undergo physical therapy and rehabilitation to improve their ability to eat, speak, and swallow. Support from family, friends, and healthcare professionals can be critical during recovery. Mental health support is also important as many patients can experience anxiety or depression as they recover from cancer treatment.

Follow-up care

After oral cancer treatment, patients will continue to have regular follow-up appointments with their healthcare team to monitor for any signs of cancer recurrence. Follow-up care can include scans and examinations of the mouth, throat, and lymph nodes. Patients may also receive ongoing treatment such as speech therapy or nutritional counselling.

Conclusion

Oral cancer is a serious disease, but there is hope. By understanding the different treatment options for oral cancer, you can work with your healthcare team to make the best decisions for your health. Surgery, radiation, and reconstruction are all effective treatments for oral cancer and can be used alone or in combination depending on the stage and location of the cancer. While recovery can be challenging, knowing what to expect and having a strong support system can make all the difference. Remember, following up and preventing oral cancer in the first place with healthy habits is key, including going to the dentist regularly and avoiding risky behaviours like smoking and excessive drinking. Together, we can fight oral cancer and improve our overall health.