dentist discussing oral cancer surgery with patient

Oral Cancer Surgery: How To Prep For Your Procedure

There are many ways in which your doctor may decide to treat your oral cancer. Removing the tumor is top priority, but there are different procedures that may be used in tandem with other treatments, such as chemotherapy. If oral cancer surgery is your next step, you might be feeling nervous. Take the time to make sure that you're properly prepared by asking the right questions to help you feel more confident in what you can do to make your surgery a success. Here's how to prep for your procedure.

Attend All Preliminary Appointments

Before your surgery, your doctor will likely run a number of tests to ensure your body is healthy enough to endure cancer treatment. You might undergo blood tests, CT scans and X-rays to check the health of your lungs, and an ECG to measure heart vitality. You might also be given a breathing test as part of your pre-op appointments. It's important that you attend all appointments leading up to your surgery. This is when your doctor can explain the procedure to you, and you can ask any questions you might have, such as:

  • What type of surgery am I having?
  • What's the success rate for this surgery?
  • What should I do in the 24 hours before surgery?
  • How long is the recovery time?
  • What is the likelihood of my cancer returning?
  • Will I have any food and drink restrictions before or after surgery?
Keep careful track of the questions you have and the answers you receive. You may find it helpful to bring a notebook to your preliminary appointments so you can record information and refer back to it when the time comes.

Follow Pre-Op Procedure

Your doctor and/or surgeon will give you important pre-op instructions to detail how to prep for your specific type of surgery. Typically, if you are undergoing general anesthesia or intravenous sedation, the University of Maryland Medical Center cautions against eating or drinking eight hours prior to your surgery. Read through all pre-op materials, which will also tell you where and when you'll need to appear for your procedure, as well as general recovery instructions. Follow all pre-op instructions carefully, as failure to do so could postpone your surgery.

Follow Post-Op Instructions

Your recovery and post-op instructions will depend heavily upon the type of surgery you've had, but general restrictions will apply. If you're a smoker, your surgeon will urge you to stop, since smoking can aggravate surgical locations and increase your chances of relapse Make sure you ask your surgeon about restrictions for eating and drinking, as well as when you can resume an oral care routine with a gentle toothpaste, like Colgate Sensitive Complete Protection, which helps relieve the pain associated with tooth sensitivity. The American Cancer Society also notes that you may have a feeding tube or tracheotomy tube that may require special care. Make sure you're clear on how to properly care for any equipment. You'll also need to continue regular screenings and attend all post-op appointments to ensure healing is going well.

Oral cancer surgery might be a required step in helping you achieve remission, but it still can be a nerve-wracking procedure. The more information you have about how to prep and how to recover, the more confident you'll be in your oral surgeon and the outcome of your procedure. Ask plenty of questions and take the time you need to recover for the best results.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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