Cancer of the Mouth and Throat (cont.)
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What Are Treatment Options for Mouth and Throat Cancer?
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After evaluation by a surgical or radiation oncologist to treat the cancer, there will be ample opportunity to ask questions and discuss which treatments are available.
Like many cancers, head and neck cancer is treated on the basis of cancer stage. The most widely used therapies are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Treatment falls into two categories: treatment to fight the cancer and treatment to relieve the symptoms of the disease and the side effects of the treatment (supportive care).
Surgery is the treatment of choice for early stage cancers and many later stage cancers. The tumor is removed, along with surrounding tissues, including but not limited to the lymph nodes, blood vessels, nerves, and muscles that are affected.
Radiation therapy involves the use of a high-energy beam to kill cancer cells.
Chemotherapy refers to the use of drugs to attempt to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is used in some cases before surgery to reduce the size of the cancer, or after surgery, or in combination with radiation to enhance the local, regional, and distant control of the disease and hopefully the cure rate of the treatment. Hidden cancer cells may escape the area being treated by surgery or radiation and it is those cells which result in recurrences of the cancer and which chemotherapy hopes to prevent by killing such cells. A person's treatment plan will be individualized for his or her specific situation. Targeted therapy refers to the use of newer drugs or other substances that block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with molecules specific to the particular type of tumor. Older chemotherapy drugs are less specific, or targeted, but rely on cancer cells being less able to recover from their effects than can normal cells.
Treatment of recurrent tumors, like that of primary tumors, varies by size and location of the recurrent tumor. The treatment given previously is also taken into account. For instance, sometimes further surgery can be done. If a site of recurrence was already treated by external radiation therapy may be difficult to treat a second time with external radiation. Often chemotherapy may be tried if a recurrence is inoperable, or further radiation with curative intent is not feasible.
Weight loss is a common effect in people with head and neck cancers. Discomfort from the tumor itself, as well as the effects of treatment on the chewing and swallowing structures and the digestive tract, often prevents eating.
The patient will probably see a speech therapist during and for some time after treatment. The speech therapist helps the patient learn to cope with the changes in the mouth and throat after treatment so that he or she can eat, swallow, and talk.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/13/2017
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