Oral Cancer (cont.)
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What are the side effects of treatment for oral cancer?
Because treatment often damages healthy cells and tissues, unwanted side effects are common. These side effects depend mainly on the location of the tumor and the type and extent of the treatment. Side effects may not be the same for each person, and they may even change from one treatment session to the next. Before treatment starts, your health care team will explain possible side effects and suggest ways to help you manage them.
The NCI provides helpful booklets about cancer treatments and coping with side effects. Booklets such as Radiation Therapy and You, Chemotherapy and You, and Eating Hints for Cancer Patients may be viewed, downloaded, and ordered from http://cancer.gov/publications. These materials also may be ordered by calling the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) also provides helpful materials. Head and Neck Radiation Treatment and Your Mouth, Chemotherapy and Your Mouth, and other booklets are available from NIDCR. See "National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research Information Resources" for a list of publications.
It takes time to heal after surgery, and the time needed to recover is different for each person. You may be uncomfortable for the first few days after surgery. However, medicine can usually control the pain. Before surgery, you should discuss the plan for pain relief with your doctor or nurse. After surgery, your doctor can adjust the plan if you need more pain relief.
It is common to feel tired or weak for a while. Also, surgery may cause tissues in your face to swell. This swelling usually goes away within a few weeks. However, removing lymph nodes can result in swelling that lasts a long time.
Surgery to remove a small tumor in the mouth may not cause any lasting problems. For a larger tumor, however, the surgeon may remove part of the palate, tongue, or jaw. This surgery may change your ability to chew, swallow, or talk. Also, your face may look different after surgery. Reconstructive or plastic surgery may be done to rebuild the bones or tissues of the mouth. (See "Reconstruction.")
Almost all patients who have radiation therapy to the head and neck area develop oral side effects. That is why it is important to get the mouth in good condition before cancer treatment begins. Seeing a dentist two weeks before cancer treatment begins gives the mouth time to heal after dental work.
The side effects of radiation therapy depend mainly on the amount of radiation given. Some side effects in the mouth go away after radiation treatment ends, while others last a long time. A few side effects (such as dry mouth) may never go away.
Radiation therapy may cause some or all of these side effects:
Although the side effects of radiation therapy can be distressing, your doctor can usually treat or control them. It helps to report any problems that you are having so that your doctor can work with you to relieve them.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause some of the same side effects, including skin rashes, painful mouth and gums, dry mouth, infection, and changes in taste. Some anticancer drugs can also cause bleeding in the mouth and a deep pain in the jaw that feels like a toothache. The problems you have depend on the type and amount of anticancer drugs you receive, and how your body reacts to them. You may have these problems only during treatment or for a short time after treatment ends.
Generally, anticancer drugs affect cells that divide rapidly. In addition to cancer cells, these rapidly dividing cells include the following:
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/28/2014
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Oral Cancer - Symptoms Question: What are the symptoms of your oral cancer?
Oral Cancer - Side Effects Question: Oral cancer treatment can make chewing and talking difficult. What side effects have been challenging for you?
Oral Cancer - Treatment Question: What types of treatment or surgery have you had to treat your oral cancer?
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