Treatments for Oral Cancer

Treatments for Oral Cancer

by Alex Hirsch (SU)

Cancer cells and tumors can develop almost anywhere in the body, including inside a person’s mouth – from the gums to the lips to the tongue or inside the cheeks. There are almost 40,000 new cases of oral cancer in the United States every year, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

There are several risk factors associated with the development of oral cancer, and the biggest of them all is tobacco use – from smoking cigarettes to chewing tobacco. Having a family history of mouth cancer, a weak immune system, or human papillomavirus (HPV) infection are other main factors that increase your chances of getting oral cancer.

Being detected earlier rather than later is particularly important with oral cancer, because the five-year survival rate is 75% if it is caught early – but only 20% if caught at an advanced stage. If you are diagnosed with this type of cancer, your doctor may recommend any of the following forms of treatment: 

Radiation Therapy

This type of therapy beams radiation directly to mouth tumors. The patient will likely receive radiation treatment every weekday for a duration of two to eight weeks (five days per week). These radiation beams can destroy cancer cells or, at the very least, slow down their growth. Your doctor may also implant radiation seeds in your mouth for a continuous treatment. 

This therapy is often the primary treatment for oral cancer if your tumor is small. Radiation can also be used to alleviate pain that is caused by advanced-stage cancer. Chemotherapy may be prescribed in addition to the radiation therapy in order to increase its effectiveness. 


This treatment uses anti-cancer chemicals to kill and destroy cancer cells. The medicine can be either administered orally (pills) or given through an intravenous (IV) line. The drug will travel through the bloodstream to target the cancer cells.

Chemotherapy can be used with other forms of treatment, such as radiation therapy. It is most commonly used either to shrink a large tumor or to try to eliminate the cancer cells after the primary treatment is completed.


Oral cancer resection is done by removing the entire tumor and possibly also adjacent tissue that may have traces of cancer cells in it. Depending on the location of the cancer and whether it has metastasized (spread), surgery may be done on the mouth, neck, and/or jawbone. 

Mohs micrographic surgery, on the other hand, is done if the cancer is on the lip. The tumor is removed and eliminated in thin slices. This process of slicing continues until no more cancer cells are seen under the microscope. Doctors and surgeons are careful in this type of surgery in order to prevent any changes in appearance and damage to adjacent healthy tissues. 

The type of treatment you will receive for your oral cancer depends on how the doctors assessed your tumor growth and how far the cancer has spread, if at all. The physician will also take into consideration where the tumor originated.

Trusted Dentist in Eugene, Oregon

If you are experiencing any symptoms of oral cancer or mouth pain, the dental experts at 360 Dental are here to help you achieve healthy teeth and a healthy mouth. We offer dental services of all kinds – from cavity treatment to teeth whitening, from dental implants to regular cleanings and checkups.

Call us now at (541) 689-1645 or set up a consultation at your most convenient time. We look forward to serving you and helping you maintain optimum oral health.