GENERAL INFORMATION

BENIGN LARYNX/VOICE DISORDERS

SALIVARY GLANDS

THYROID and PARATHYROIDS

LARYNX CANCER

ORAL CAVITY & TONGUE CANCER

TREATMENT OF HEAD & NECK CANCERS

 

ORAL CAVITY AND TONGUE CANCER

GENERAL INFORMATION

The oral cavity (mouth) and the tongue are 2 important areas where Head & Neck cancers may occur. Chewing, swallowing, and speaking are important functions that require the mouth and tongue.

The biggest risk factor for cancer of the oral cavity and tongue is the use of tobacco products. Tobacco use, in any of its many forms (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, etc), is by far the greatest risk factor. As is the case with most Head & Neck cancers, drinking alcohol will increase the risk dramatically when combined with tobacco use. Smoking a pipe or cigars will specifically increase your risk for lip cancers. Therefore lip cancers also need to be considered with cancers of the mouth and tongue.

Cancers of the oral cavity and tongue will usually be first noticed as a sore or lump in the mouth that does not go away. There may or may not be pain associated with these sores or lumps. As the lesion gets larger it may begin to impact your ability to speak or swallow. The color of the lesion unfortunately does not help in diagnosis. Early cancers can be red, white, or the same color as the surrounding mouth structures. Tongue cancers tend to be on the edge or under surface of the tongue, but cancers can occur anywhere in the mouth.

Your doctor should examine any lesion in the mouth that does not go away within a week. A consultation with an Otolaryngologist may be recommended. Any persistent lesion should ideally be examined by a surgeon with experience in treating Head & Neck cancers. Otolaryngologists (ENT surgeons) examine and treat these areas. The physicians at Berks ENT Surgical Associates are highly skilled in this form of examination.

EVALUATION OF THE ORAL CAVITY AND TONGUE

Examination of the mouth and tongue is part of the routine Head & Neck evaluation. Fortunately these areas are easy to see, and most of the evaluation can be done in the office. If a tumor is identified in your mouth or on your tongue your surgeon may recommend a biopsy of the tumor. This can often be done in the office under local anesthetic, but may need to be done in an operating room under general anesthesia.

If a cancer is present, the surgeon must determine the stage of the tumor, and the exact areas of the oral cavity involved by the tumor. Accurate staging and tumor mapping is critical and should be done by a surgeon experienced in the assessment of Head & Neck cancers. The reason the stage and exact tumor location are important is because the stage of your tumor and its location determine the best course of treatment for you.

TREATMENT OF ORAL CAVITY CANCERS

Cancers of the oral cavity and tongue are often aggressive and need to be treated as early in their course as possible. Small tumors can often be treated with surgery or radiation therapy. Larger tumors and tumors affecting other areas of the mouth and throat usually require surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or some combination of these three forms of treatment. For a detailed discussion regarding the treatment of Head & Neck cancers click here.

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