The prognosis of mouth cancer is brighter if the disease is detected at an initial stage. Know from this article about the treatment options to deal with mouth cancer.
Fortunately, mouth cancer is not counted among the common cancers that affect people across the world. But at the same time, it is not less severe than other types of cancers. Its treatment is influenced by the area of the mouth that has been affected by the cancer cells, and how far it has spread, in other words, the stage of the condition. Even the overall health of the patient plays an important role in the commencement of the treatment. And depending on all these parameters, the patient may have to undergo only one type of treatment or a combination of various treatment methods. It solely depends on the patient’s personal preference on the type of treatment he/she would want to go for. But generally, the choice is a difficult one, and so recommendations of the care team plays an important role.
What is Mouth Cancer and How is it Caused?
As the name suggests, mouth cancer refers to the growth of cancerous cells that invade different parts of the mouth including the tongue, lips or gums. When the cancer cells invade the tissues on the inside of the mouth, it is more appropriately known as oral cancer. And in extremely rare instances, it has been known to have spread to the tonsils, the glands that produce saliva, and the pharynx.
According to experts, certain genetic mutation in the structure of the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) which is contained in the nucleus of the cells in the mouth, causes normal cells to become cancerous. The DNA contains a set of instructions for the cells to grow and reproduce. However, this mutation alters these instructions, and cause the cells to grow and divide in an uncontrolled manner, and often more quickly than normal cells.
So with time, these fast growing abnormal cells form a lump which is known as a tumor. And this tumor may keep on growing and spreading to the normal tissues of the mouth. And when these cancerous cells invade the blood and lymph vessels, they can easily spread to other parts of the body, giving rise to secondary cancers. And then, the cancer is said to have metastasized. Now what factors cause such kind of mutation in the cells, have not been identified yet.
What are the Characteristic Mouth Cancer Symptoms?
The main symptom that may indicate the onset of mouth cancer is the development of one or more ulcers in the mouth or on the lip that do not show any signs of healing. This may be accompanied by the lining of the mouth or tongue developing patches, which may be white, or red and white. Throat pain while swallowing, and a feeling of something being caught in the throat are some other symptoms. Besides these, other signs may include:
- Teeth becoming loose
- Dentures not fitting properly
- Swollen mouth that lasts for more than a couple of weeks
- Abnormal weight loss, hoarseness in the voice, neck pain and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
Treatment Plan for Mouth Cancer
As cited at the beginning of this article, the stage of the disease, and its location are the two main factors that decide the treatment. Basically, there are three main options that are available for the treatment. These include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. According to what doctors have observed, if the cancer has not metastasized (spread) beyond the regions of the mouth or the area at the back of the throat, then there are good chances of curing the condition. However, once the cancer metastasizes, then curing the condition is most unlikely. But the cancer can be somehow slowed down, and symptoms can be relieved.
The primary goal of surgery is to get rid of the tumor that has formed on the lips or inside the mouth. Along with the tumor, it may also be necessary to remove a part of the healthy tissue that neighbors the cancer-affected site. In some cases wherein, the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, then along with the tumor, the affected nodes, and some surrounding tissues may be removed, as well.
For a mouth cancer that has progressed to an advanced stage, the treatment may involve removing a part of the mouth lining, facial skin, and in some cases, a section of the patient’s jawbone and even that of the tongue. So in such cases, the patient may also have to undergo what is known as a reconstructive surgery. This is required to help in improving the appearance of the operated face, and more importantly, helping the patient to regain his/her ability to talk and eat.
This procedure works on the principle of X-rays. These high-energy beams do the work of killing the cells that have become cancerous. Usually, this method is recommended to be used after surgery to inhibit the recurrence of cancer cells. This therapy may be carried on for three to seven weeks, and may be extended depending upon the size of the cancer.
This procedure is one of the most common treatment methods employed for various types of cancers. It employs drugs whose active constituents are powerful chemicals. These chemicals are designed to kill the cancer cells in the mouth or on the lips. These drugs do the job of damaging the DNA of the cancerous cells thus, keeping them from reproducing. Depending upon the stage of the condition, the patient may be treated with one chemo drug or a combination of more than one.
Targeted Drug Therapy:
This is, a relatively new kind of therapy that helps treating cancer of the mouth. Generally, applied in conjunction with radiotherapy and chemotherapy, it is helpful in managing cancers in advanced stages. The medication used in this therapy specifically targets the proteins found on the surface of the cancer cells. These proteins are one of the mechanisms that help the cancer cells grow. Thus, by destroying them, the growth of the disease can be stopped or slowed down.
As far as prevention is concerned, as the specific cause of the condition is not known, there is no proven way to avoid it. However, by lessening the use of tobacco products, limiting alcohol, including more fruits and vegetables in the diet, and going for regular dental checkups can help reduce the risk of mouth cancer. Keep well!