Cancer is defined as the uncontrollable growth of cells that invade and cause damage to surrounding tissue. Oral cancer appears as a growth or sore in the mouth that does not go away. Oral cancer, which includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and pharynx (throat), can be life threatening if not diagnosed and treated early. If you are diagnosed with metastatic oral cancer, your doctor will discuss the best options to treat it. This depends on several factors, including the type and stage of the cancer and your general health.Your treatment for metastatic oral cancer will be customized to your particular needs. One or more of the following therapies may be recommended to treat the cancer or help relieve symptoms.
Surgery is the most frequent treatment for metastatic oral cancer. The type of surgery depends on the type and stage of the tumor. Surgical techniques to treat oral cancer and deal with the side effects of treatment include:
- Removal of the tumor or a larger area to remove the tumor and surrounding healthy tissue
- Removal of part or all of the jaw
- Maxillectomy (removal of bone in the roof of the mouth)
- Removal of lymph nodes and other tissue in the neck
- Plastic surgery, including skin grafts, tissue flaps or dental implants to restore tissues removed from the mouth or neck
- Tracheotomy, or placing a hole in the windpipe, to assist in breathing for patients with large tumors or after surgical removal of the tumor
- Dental surgery to remove teeth or assist with reconstruction
In cancer of the mouth, radiation therapy may be used alone to treat small or early-stage tumors. More often, radiation therapy is used after surgery, either alone or with chemotherapy for more advanced tumors. The method of radiation treatment used depends on the type and stage of cancer.
External-beam radiation therapy is the most frequently used method to deliver radiation therapy to the mouth. Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) and proton therapy are aimed at treating the tumor while minimizing damage to surrounding normal tissue.
Internal radiation or brachytherapy delivers radiation with tiny seeds, needles or tubes that are implanted into the tumor. It is used sometimes for treating small tumors or with surgery in advanced tumors.
The Proton Therapy Center at MD Anderson is one of the world’s largest and most advanced centers. It’s the only proton therapy facility in the country located within a comprehensive cancer center. This means this cutting-edge therapy is backed by all the expertise and compassionate care for which MD Anderson is famous.
Proton therapy delivers high radiation doses directly into the tumor, sparing nearby healthy tissue and vital organs. For many patients, this results in a higher chance for successful treatment with less impact on the body.