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Treatment for head and neck cancers, like oral cancer, varies greatly from person to person. Your multidisciplinary team may use any combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapy, or new immunotherapies to treat or control your oral cancer:
Surgery. Surgery may be part of an overall plan for treating a recurrence or new tumors. Specially trained head and neck surgical oncologists remove a tumor and some surrounding tissue, as well as some nearby lymph nodes. Your surgery may involve lasers for precise removal of cancer or precancerous growths or to relieve symptoms of cancer. Laser surgery is used most often to treat cancers on the surface of the body or in the lining of internal organs.
Radiation therapy (radiotherapy). We use X-rays and other types of medical radiation aimed at specific parts of the body. The radiation kills cancer cells, prevents cancer cells from developing or recurring, and improves many of cancer’s symptoms. For certain cancers, radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy and called chemo-radiotherapy.
Chemotherapy. Drugs that slow down, damage, or kill cancer cells. It may involve single drugs or combinations of drugs taken intravenously or by mouth. Chemotherapy is often taken in cycles lasting three or four weeks each. Your team may also prescribe drugs to reduce or eliminate chemotherapy’s side effects.
Anti-cancer drug therapy. Single drugs or combinations of drugs taken through intravenous injections or as prescribed tablets/capsules help fight the cancer itself or side effects from chemotherapy. Drugs may be taken in repeating patterns that usually last three to four weeks.
Targeted therapy. Anti-cancer drugs or other substances that directly interfere with cancer growth and progression at the molecular level may be taken—with few side effects—on their own or combined with standard chemotherapy. Many new targeted therapies, including vaccines and gene therapies, are currently in development.