An estimated 50,000 new cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx (throat) will be diagnosed annually, but the survival rates can be high if treated early. We have a multidisciplinary team that is here to help you. A cancer diagnosis can be scary and overwhelming in many ways. Every person is different and has different needs such as emotional support, financial assistance, and transportation concerns. We work seamlessly with our cancer care partners to address any needs you may have to eliminate as much stress as possible.
- A painful mass or lesion of the mouth, tongue, or gums that does not heal
- A mass or lesion in the mouth that bleeds easily
- A white or red patch or thickening in the mouth that does not improve
- Ear pain that does not improve
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Difficulty moving your tongue, or opening your mouth fully
- Voice hoarseness that is getting worse
- A neck mass that is getting larger
- Coughing up blood
- Tobacco use. Any form of tobacco puts you at an increased risk of many cancers not-just cancers of the head and neck. Chewing tobacco, other tobacco products and betel nut also put you at an increased risk for cancers of the mouth.
- Excessive alcohol use in combination with smoking puts you at a 30 fold increased risk of a cancer of the oral cavity or throat.
- HPV infection of the mouth and throat.
HPV vaccination- For the most part, vaccine research has been focused on genital cancers, but vaccination does work against the same strains that cause cancers in the mouth. It is believed that this will also decrease the number of HPV related cancers in the mouth. Risk factor reduction – Quit smoking and drinking
If you have any of the symptoms above please see your doctor or dentist. He or she will do a complete exam of your mouth, teeth, and gums. If anything suspicious is seen, a biopsy may be performed. This is a minor procedure that can often be done in the clinic, or as an outpatient. During a biopsy a small piece of tissue is removed and sent to a pathologist who will look at your tissue under a microscope to see if it is cancer or not. You may also need to have special tests such as a CT scan or PET scan. Sometimes your doctor will request a laryngoscopy. During a laryngoscopy, you will be awake but numbed while a small camera is passed through your nose and down into your voice box to look at the structures of your larynx.
Treatment can include surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation. The type of treatment you will need will depend on the stage and type of cancer you have. After meeting you and reviewing all of your records and test results, your physician will make a treatment recommendation.
Chemotherapy is medication that is given through an IV that targets and kills cancer cells. There are many different types of chemotherapy, and some are also known as “immune therapy,” or “biologics.” The type of therapy you receive will depend on many factors, and your doctor may want to do special genetic testing of your cancer to see what drugwould work best for you.
Radiation is a treatment that uses high dose radiation to kill cancer cells. It can be used with or without chemotherapy. Radiation is given every day (Monday- Friday) for five to seven weeks.
There are many different types of surgeries you may need, depending on the type and location of your cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation may also be used in combination with surgery.
Oral prosthetics are often needed to replace missing areas of bone or tissue and restore functions such as swallowing, speech, and chewing. In other instances, a prosthesis for the face or body may be indicated for cosmetic and psychosocial reasons.
Your treatment plan is developed to address your very specific needs and type of cancer. Our Patient Navigators can help you address some of the factors that may influence your treatment decisions, such as finances and transportation.
We feel it is important you understand your cancer, and how to treat it. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have during your visits. You can also use these trusted websites: