Mouth cancer treatment

If mouth cancer is diagnosed early, you have a good chance of recovery: 80% of patients will survive beyond five years. As with many cancers, treatment for mouth cancer usually involves a combination of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Mr Cascarini is an expert in mouth cancer surgery and uses conventional and robotic techniques to excise tumours and perform tissue reconstruction as necessary.

Surgery for mouth cancer

The primary treatment for mouth cancer is the surgical removal of the cancerous cells and the surrounding tissue. This may involve removal of part of the jawbone or cheekbones, part of the tongue or even part of the facial skin, depending on the site and extent of the cancer. If bone is removed, it can be reconstructed using bone grafts or prosthetics. The skin and tongue can also be repaired using grafts.

Surgery may be undertaken in the traditional way, cutting away at the cancerous tissue, or may be done using a laser technique called Photodynamic Therapy (PDT), which uses chemicals to make the cancerous cells more sensitive to light and so more easily destroyed.

Selective Neck Dissection

To remove lymph nodes from the neck when the cancer is in the mouth is a low risk procedure which takes about 45 minutes. This video shows Mr Cascarini operating.

Radiotherapy for mouth cancer

Radiotherapy uses radiation to kill off cancer cells, especially those that have not been removed by surgery. Radiotherapy is usually used to prevent the return of mouth cancer, but it can also be used to target the cancer itself.

Standard radiotherapy delivers a dose of radiation to the general area of the tumour and its surrounding cells, whereas internal radiotherapy uses probes inserted directly into the tumour site to deliver the radiation. Standard radiotherapy is given daily for three to seven weeks, while internal radiotherapy only takes one to eight days.

Chemotherapy for mouth cancer

Chemotherapy is an additional safeguard that is usually only used where there is a significant risk of the cancer returning. It uses powerful chemicals to damage the cancer cells and prevent them from reproducing.

There are also a number of specialist cancer drugs available, such as the antibody Cetuximab, which target the cancer cells in different ways. However, these treatments are only available on the NHS in special circumstances where other treatments are not possible. They can be bought privately, but are very expensive, with a course of Cetuximab for example costing between £7,000 and £14,000.

A multi-disciplinary treatment team

The treatment of mouth cancer is a highly complex process, and involves a number of highly skilled professionals from different disciplines. Mr Cascarini works in a team with a pathologist and radiotherapists and clinical oncologists to provide a continuum of care for every patient.