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Cancer of the Mouth and Throat (cont.)

Mouth and Throat Cancer Surgery

Oral surgery for cancer may be simple or very complicated. This depends on how far the cancer has spread from where it started.

  • Cancers that have not spread can often be removed quite easily, with minimal scarring or change in appearance.
  • If the cancer has spread to other structures, those structures must also be removed. This may include small muscles in the neck, lymph nodes in the neck, salivary glands, and nerves and blood vessels that supply the face. Structures of the jaw, chin, and face, as well as teeth and gums, may also be affected.

If any of these structures are removed, the person's appearance will change. The surgery will also leave scars that may be visible. These changes can sometimes be extensive. A plastic surgeon may take part in the planning or in the operation itself to minimize these changes. Reconstructive surgery may be an option to restore tissues removed or altered by surgery.

Removal of tissues and the resulting scars can cause problems with the normal functions of the mouth and throat. These disruptions may be either temporary or permanent. Chewing, swallowing, and speaking are the functions most likely to be disrupted.

Mouth and Throat Cancer Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy, in which a drug is given that is specially designed to target molecules specific to the particular type of cancer, may be administered or combined with other therapies in some cases. Cetuximab and several other new treatments are available for targeted oral cancer therapy. These treatments are often used in conjunction with older forms of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. For example, Cetuximab (Erbitux) is an engineered antibody that binds to the epidermal growth factor receptor, a molecule important for cell growth. It was the first targeted therapy approved for oral cancer. Cetuximab binds to oral cancer cells and interferes with cancer cell growth and the spread of cancer. Cetuximab is given once a week in an injection through a vein (intravenous injection). It may cause certain unique side effects, including an acne-like rash. Today there are numerous other targeted agents being studied for use against squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck, as well as against other forms of cancer which can arise elswere in the body.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/18/2016

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Cancers of the Oral Mucosa »

Approximately 90% of oral cancers are squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which is seen in older men, typically on the lip or lateral part of the tongue.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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