Treatment for Oral Cancer

Treatment for various stages of Oral cancer

Treating oral cancers can vary depending on the type, location, and stage of cancer.


Early stages of oral cancers can be cured by surgically removing the tumors and lymph nodes. In most cases, removal of the cells and tissues around the affected area is also performed.

Radiation therapy: 

Radiation therapy also helps to cure cancer. In this, the doctor focuses a beam at the tumor once or twice a day, five times a week. This goes on for around two to eight weeks. Advanced stages, however, are treated with the combination of Radiation therapy and Chemotherapy.

Targeted therapy: 

Targeted therapy is helpful in both early and advanced stages of Oral Cancer. In this, the drugs will bind to the specific proteins on cancer cells and halt their uncontrolled growth.


Nutrition plays an important role in Oral Cancer treatment. Most of the treatments make it painful to eat and swallow, resulting in the reduction of the weight. Then the nutrition comes in the picture to maintain the processes going.

Stage 0

Cancer in this stage is only on the epithelium, the outermost layer of the skin. Stage 0 means that it has not started to grow to the tissues; but it can spread into the deeper layer of the skin if not treated on time. Cancer in this stage is usually treated with a small Surgery to remove the top layer of the skin along with a small margin of normal tissues. A follow up in this stage is really important to watch for the signs of cancer coming back. If it keeps coming back, then it might need treatment with Radiation therapy.

Almost all patients diagnosed with stage 0 cancer survive for a long time without the need for any intense treatment. However, continuous smoking and/or excessive drinking can lead to a new type of cancer formation.

Stage I to III

The common and usual treatment for cancer in these stages is Surgery and/or Radiation therapy. Chemotherapy, along with radiation (chemoradiation), is also an option in some cases. Radiation is usually given after the Surgery to get rid of the traces of cancer cells that might be left behind.

Stage I:

In Stage I, the tumor is less than 2cm in size and is contained to the place of beginning, which means it has not yet spread to any lymph nodes. Side effects include swelling or bloating of the face and Pain in the area where Surgery was performed.

Stage II:

In Stage II, the tumor is between 2-4 cm in size. Cancer cells have not spread to the lymph nodes yet. Side effects of the treatment include pain, tiredness, swelling of the face, and even bleeding in some cases.Both I and II stages have the five-year survival rate of around 70% to 90% depending on various factors.

Stage III:

In Stage III, the tumor is either larger than 4cm, or it can be of any size, spreading to one lymph node and leaving other organs intact. Side effects of treating a Stage III cancer can range from swelling or bloating of the face to bleeding, nausea, tiredness, weakness and hoarseness. The survival rate is around 83% in case the tumor hasn’t spread to nearby lymph nodes and around 64% when the nearby lymph nodes are affected too.

Stage IV

Cancer in this stage is HPV-negative cancer (independent from HPV-infection) and has already spread to nearby tissues, lymph nodes, and other nearby organs (usually, the lungs). Treatment for this stage cancers include chemotherapy, cetuximab (targeted drugs to cure cancer), or the combination of both for the treatments. Immunotherapy can also be an option, and it can also be given along with Chemotherapy to help fasten the process.

The survival rate for this stage cancer is around 38%, and the side effects after the treatment include swelling of the face, change in taste, dryness of mouth, bleeding in some cases, hoarseness, Pain and/or redness in and around the mouth. Removal of lymph nodes can also cause shoulder weakness, ear numbness, and swelling in the area if they were removed from the neck. Constipation or Diarrhea can also occur in some cases due to heavy medications.