Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Treatment

Oral cancer, also known as mouth cancer, affects the tongue, cheeks, floor of mouth, and areas surrounding teeth. Head and neck cancers can also affect the larynx, thyroid, and salivary glands. Currently, an estimated 110,000 people are diagnosed with oral, head and neck cancer annually in the U.S. It is estimated that 54,000 new cases of oral, head and neck cancer occur annually in the United States.

A few of the more common signs and symptoms of oral, head and neck cancer include:

  1. Red and/or white lesions lasting longer than one month
  2. Swollen neck glands
  3. Painful chronic oral ulcerations
  4. Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  5. Growths or masses on the tongue, cheek, palate, or areas surrounding the teeth
  6. Abnormal sensations of the lip, chin, or tongue

Some of the major risk factors for oral, head and neck cancer include:

  1. Tobacco use
  2. Alcohol use
  3. Exposure to viruses like HPV
  4. Chronic inflammation or irritation
  5. Exposure to known carcinogens
  6. Family history of genetic susceptibility to cancer

With a multidisciplinary team approach, Jonathan Shum, DDS, MD, and James Melville, DDS, work alongside leading oncologists, radiation therapists, geneticists, maxillofacial prosthodontists, radiologists, and reconstructive surgeons to provide the highest level of oral, head and neck cancer care. Schedules are coordinated to maximize treatment efficiency and reduce time from diagnosis to treatment.

Diagnosing cancer is a multi-step process that may include:

  1. A consultation and physical examination by Drs. Shum or Melville
  2. Removal of a piece of the suspicious tissue as a biopsy
  3. Nasopharyngolaryngoscopy, or viewing the throat and vocal cords with a camera
  4. Imaging which may include an MRI, CT scan, chest X-ray, or PET scan

Treatment of oral, head and neck cancer varies depending on the type of cancer but generally includes the following modalities:

  1. Surgery
  2. Chemotherapy
  3. Radiation

Many reconstructive options exist to address defects after tumor removal. These may include:

  1. Use of local tissue for coverage
  2. Microvascular free flap reconstruction
  3. Titanium bars and screws
  4. Bone, skin, and muscle harvesting and transfer to another location

Drs. Melville and Shum have extensive experience in both removing cancerous lesions and reconstructing defects with the latest techniques. Comprehensive surgical care includes removal of the tumor, followed by reconstruction of the facial skeleton and soft tissue as well as placement of dental implants as needed to restore oral function.