Treatment & Common Complications
Oral cancer treatment depends on the type of cancer you have and the stage of cancer. While you can treat your oral cancer with a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, your medical team will work with you to discuss the best plan depending on your case.
It’s important to note the oral side effects and complications during treatment, as these can potentially worsen your prognosis. Swelling from the surgery may last for a few weeks, making movement of the mouth difficult. According to the National Cancer Institute, chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause oral complications for any cancer. That’s because these treatments stop or slow the growth of fast-growing cells (and cells in your mouth are fast-growing). That means that these treatments could slow down your oral tissue’s ability to repair itself by making new cells. Radiation therapy may also affect or break down oral tissue and bone, and chemotherapy and radiation therapy can lead to an imbalance of bacteria in the mouth, which can lead to mouth sores, infections, and tooth decay.
While all of this can seem frightening, don’t panic. When you’re dealing with oral cancer, you have a team behind you. Your oncologist will likely work with your oral care professional to ensure proper management of these side effects. If you are going through treatment, keep an eye out when these conditions make eating, speaking, and swallowing difficult or cause changes in food tastes. That’s a sign to reach out to your oral care professional or medical team.