Mouth Cancer Treatment


Mouth cancer is considered to be a cancer of the oral cavity, or oral cancer. A majority of cancers in the mouth cancers are found on the tongue (approximately 25 percent), tonsils (10 to 15 percent), salivary glands (10 to 15 percent) and the lips (10 to 15 percent). Risk factors for developing mouth cancer include heavy tobacco and alcohol use, exposure to the sun and HPV infections.

Approximately 29,000 new cases of oral cavity, which includes cancers of the mouth as well as and oropharynx cancers (throat cancers) are expected to be diagnosed this year. Mouth cancer is considered an older person cancer in that the average age is over 60 when diagnosis occurs.

Treatment options for mouth cancer can include one or more of the following:

Surgery to remove the tumor is a common treatment for mouth cancer. Depending on the size of the cancer, part of the tongue, jaw and palate may be removed, which may affect the ability to talk, swallow or chew. In these cases, reconstructive surgery may be necessary to help rebuild the areas that were removed.
Radiation Therapy
An option for very small tumors or people who cannot tolerate surgery, radiation therapy can be given internally or externally to treat mouth cancer. Radiation therapy also is used prior to surgery to reduce the size of the tumor before the operation or used after surgery to try to make sure any remaining cancer cells in the area are destroyed.
Typically given intravenously, chemotherapy is often given at the same time as radiation therapy to treat mouth cancer. Commonly used chemotherapeutic drugs include 5-fluorouracil, bleomycin, carboplatin, cisplatin, docetaxel, ifosfamide, methotrexate and paclitaxel. Because of the harsh nature of chemotherapy, it can cause pain and infection in the mouth and gums, resulting in dry mouth and/or changes in taste.
Targeted Therapy
Erbitux, a targeted anticancer therapy, also can be given in combination with radiation or chemotherapy to treat mouth cancer. This drug is specially is designed to bind to a substance called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which are found on the surface of mouth cancer cells.

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