Oral Cancer (cont.)
In this Article
How is oral cancer treated?
If the biopsy shows that cancer is present, your doctor needs to know the stage (extent) of your disease to plan the best treatment. The stage is based on the size of the tumor, whether the cancer has spread and, if so, to what parts of the body.
Staging may require lab tests. It also may involve endoscopy. The doctor uses a thin, lighted tube (endoscope) to check your throat, windpipe, and lungs. The endoscope may be flexible or rigid. The doctor inserts the endoscope through your nose or mouth. Local anesthesia is used to ease your discomfort and prevent you from gagging. Some people also may have a mild sedative. Sometimes the doctor uses general anesthesia to put a person to sleep. This exam may be done in a doctor's office, an outpatient clinic, or a hospital.
The doctor may order one or more imaging tests to learn whether the cancer has spread:
Many people with oral cancer want to take an active part in making decisions about their medical care. It is natural to want to learn all you can about your disease and your treatment choices. However, shock and stress after the diagnosis can make it hard to think of everything you want to ask the doctor. It often helps to make a list of questions before an appointment. To help remember what the doctor says, you may take notes or ask whether you may use a tape recorder. You may also want to have a family member or friend with you when you talk to the doctor - to take part in the discussion, to take notes, or just to listen.
Your doctor may refer you to a specialist, or you may ask for a referral. Specialists who treat oral cancer include oral and maxillofacial surgeons, otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat doctors), medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and plastic surgeons. You may be referred to a team that includes specialists in surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. Other health care professionals who may work with the specialists as a team include a dentist, speech pathologist, nutritionist, and mental health counselor.
Getting a second opinion
Before starting treatment, you might want a second opinion about the diagnosis and the treatment plan. Some insurance companies require a second opinion; others may cover a second opinion if you or your doctor requests it. Do not be afraid to ask for a second opinion. These are serious conditions and you may want to learn about your diagnosis and treatment options from more than one source. Your doctor should not be offended if you ask for a second opinion, and can help you to arrange it, if asked.
There are a number of ways to find a doctor for a second opinion:
You may want to ask the doctor these questions before treatment begins:
Preparing for treatment
The choice of treatment depends mainly on your general health, where in your mouth or oropharynx the cancer began, the size of the tumor, and whether the cancer has spread. Your doctor can describe your treatment choices and the expected results. You will want to consider how treatment may affect normal activities such as swallowing and talking, and whether it will change the way you look. You and your doctor can work together to develop a treatment plan that meets your needs and personal values.
You do not need to ask all your questions or understand all the answers at once. You will have other chances to ask your doctor to explain things that are not clear and to ask for more information.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/28/2014
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