To start with, we take a complete medical history, including your history of any risk factors. If you have an ulcer or other possible signs of cancer, we ask you questions regarding when it developed and whether it has changed in size or appearance.
We have sophisticated pathology and imaging tests and a team of radiologists and pathologists who perform these tests, who specialize in head and neck cancers. They ensure that you get the right diagnosis and to personalize your care as much as possible. This is a key first step in developing the best treatment plan for you.
An oral tissue biopsy is the first step in diagnosing mouth cancer. During the biopsy, your surgeon removes a small amount of abnormal tissue from the area where mouth cancer is suspected. The tissue sample is then sent to a pathologist, who examines it under a microscope to make a diagnosis.
As part of making a diagnosis, a radiologist will take special imaging studies, such as CT scans, MRIs, or PET scans. These imaging tests provide more details about the tissue. If cancer is found, the scans can show how deep the cancer is and if it has spread.
We use the most advanced imaging technologies to safely detect and monitor cancer. And we choose the imaging approach that’s best for you and to define the precise extent of your mouth cancer.
There are several ways to treat mouth cancer, depending on the location and stage, including:
If you have mouth cancer, we will discuss your treatment options with you. To make an informed choice, ask about the pros and cons of each options. We will design a treatment plan especially for you. Their areas of expertise include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, radiology, reconstruction, rehabilitation, and quality-of-life issues.
Our goal is to give compassionate, personalized care to every person who comes to us for mouth cancer treatment.
Surgery is the main treatment for most people with mouth cancer. Usually these tumors can be removed through the opening of the oral cavity, but some may require a more extensive approach. Which surgery is right for you depends on such factors as the size, stage, and location of your tumor. We believe in working as a team, to create a precise treatment plan tailored to each person’s individual needs.
Glossectomy is the name of the surgery used to remove tongue cancers. For smaller cancers, only part of the tongue may need to be removed (partial glossectomy). For larger cancers, a more substantial portion of the tongue may need to be taken out.
We work closely with our speech therapist, before and after your surgery to design a personalized rehabilitation regimen, making sure that you maintain as much function in your tongue as possible.
A mandibulectomy (also called mandibular resection) involves the removal of part of the jawbone (mandible) when a tumor is very close or attached to the bone. A mandibulectomy is most common for mouth cancers that begin in the lower gums or the floor of the mouth.
The amount of bone that needs to be removed during a mandibulectomy varies according to the location and extent of your tumor.
We use a combination of imaging and clinical expertise to make decisions about the need for, and the extent of, mandibular resection. We collaborate with our radiologists who specialize in Head & Neck imaging to precisely define the extent of your tumor. This ensures that you get just the right amount of treatment.
Maxillectomy is a surgery to remove bones that make up the hard palate (the bony front part of the roof of the mouth) or the nasal sinuses. It is most commonly recommended for mouth cancers that begin in the hard palate or the upper gums.
The space in the roof of the mouth that this operation creates can be addressed with either reconstructive surgery or a custom-fit obturator. Our team of plastic surgeons and maxillofacial prosthodontists collaborate closely to help patients decide which option is best for them, enabling them to speak and eat normally.
Mouth cancers often spread to the lymph nodes in the neck. Removing the lymph nodes in the neck (and other nearby tissue) may be done at the same time as the surgery to remove the mouth cancer. The goal of this procedure is to remove lymph nodes shown to contain, or that are likely to contain, cancer and to reduce the chance that the cancer may return in the future.
We have extensive experience in performing these procedures and in preserving normal structures in the neck to leave minimal effects of surgery.
For many mouth tumors, we remove a large area that is affected by the tumor. The defects after tumor removal needs reconstruction. Reconstructive surgery for mouth cancer often involves the transplantation of tissue from one area of your body to the affected area of your mouth.
Our plastic and reconstructive surgeons have extensive experience in caring for people with mouth cancer. Their goal is to preserve the form and functions of your mouth by using the latest techniques available. The type of tissue transfer you have depends on the size and location of your primary tumor. Areas we commonly transfer tissue from include the forearm, the fibula (the smaller of the two bones in the lower leg), the thigh, and the abdomen.
Reconstruction for mouth cancer typically involves a microsurgical approach called free tissue transfer. This is when a plastic surgeon transfers a piece of your own tissue, along with the blood vessels, to the area where the cancer was removed in order to repair the surgical site. Tiny sutures (stitches) are used to connect the small blood vessels of the tissue to the blood vessels in the neck. That allows the transferred tissue to thrive and heal properly.
For people having reconstruction that involves the transfer of bone, we can use state-of-the-art virtual surgical planning software. This software based program enhances the precision of your operation. The software allows your doctors to develop a precise road map for your surgery. This approach results in shorter, more precise operations with potentially fewer complications.