Cancer Of Mouth And Throat



Cancer is a wide term covering more than 200 diseases that affect specific organs and body regions. Basically, the cancer is a disease of cells, and each type of cancer starts in the same way. Beginning in damage to the genetic material of the cells, which leads to uncontrolled cell proliferation. Established this way group of cells form a tumor that proliferating can destroy surrounding healthy tissue. In some cases, the cancer cells can be separated from the primary tumor and move through the blood vessels or lymph vessels in other parts of the body giving start to metastatic tumors.


The term - cancer of the mouth and throat - includes tumors that arise within: lips, gums, tongue, cheeks, palate, tonsils and throat.


Although the direct cause of cancer is unknown, scientists have identified a groups of individuals who are at increased risk of developing cancer of the mouth and throat.

These include:


  • people over 40 years of age;
  • smokers;
  • alcohol abusers ;
  • people with leucoplasia (focus of thickened mucous membrane of a whitish color) or erythroplakia focus (focus of thickened mucous membrane of red color) of the mouth and throat mucous membrane;
  • people exposed at UV rays (risk of cancer of the mouth);
  • people with a diet low in vegetables and fruits.


Detection of cancer of the mouth and throat


The most common symptoms associated with the presence of cancer of the mouth and throat are listed below. It should be noted, however, that the occurrence of these symptoms is not synonymous with the presence of cancer. For most people, the causes of the occurrence of these problems will be other, less serious diseases. Although the cause must always be checked by a doctor. Early detection and referral to a specialist can have a huge impact on the success of treatment.


Signs and symptoms that may suggest the presence of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx:


  • the presence of white and red patches, ulcers or tumors in the mouth and throat that does not heal within three weeks;
  • unexplained bleeding, pain, tenderness or numbness around the lips and mouth;
  • the presence of a tumor on neck, sore throat, hoarseness or persistent cough that does not go away within six weeks;
  • difficulty or pain when chewing, swallowing or speaking, bloody sputum;
  • persistent ear pain;
  • unexplained weight loss.


The diagnosis of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx


The initial diagnosis of cancer of the mouth and throat may be made by your GP or dentist who will then direct you to a specialist (otorhinolaryngologist, an oncologist, maxillofacial surgeon). During the detailed examination of the mouth and throat specialist can collect portion of the tumor for pathological examination.


If a diagnosis of cancer is confirmed often additional tests are performed to determine the extent of tumor invasion and the possible presence of metastases.


Additional tests may include: basic blood tests to check the general health, diagnostic imaging: X-rays, CT scan, MRI, PET (positron emission tomography) or bone scan.


Treatment of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx


The method of treatment depends mostly on the type of cancer, its size and general health of the patient.


Surgical treatment goal is to remove the tumor along with a margin of surrounding healthy tissue and necks lymph nodes.


Treatment with ionizing radiation (radiotherapy) is used as an adjunct to surgical treatment in advanced tumors or as a stand-alone method in certain cases.


If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body (distant metastases), the treatment is, use of cytotoxic drugs (chemotherapy).


The range of the surgical treatment depends on the stage of the tumor. The small changes can be managed by local resection of a tumor with primary closure of the wound. The excision of advanced cancers is often combined with removal of lymph nodes, and closing of the postoperative wound in the mouth and throat often requires reconstructive techniques using tissue taken from distant parts of the body (such as the forearm, thigh or abdomen ).


The postoperative period


In the postoperative period antibiotics are used for 7-10 days. In order to provide optimal conditions for the healing of wounds in the mouth and throat, patients do not take food by mouth, but they are fed through a nasogastric tube for 7-14 days.


Skin sutures after surgery of cervical lymph nodes are removed after 7-9 days, by which time it is recommended to protect the wound from getting wet.


Paweł Szwedowicz MD