oral, Head and Neck Cancer

Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Treatment

Oral cancer, also known as mouth cancer, affects the tongue, cheeks, floor of mouth, and areas surrounding teeth. Currently, an estimated 300,000 people are living with oral cavity cancer and 1.1 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with oral cancer at some point in their lifetime. It is estimated that 45,000 new cases of oral, head and neck cancer occur annually in the United States.

A few of the more common signs and symptoms of oral cancer include:

  1.      Red and/or white lesions lasting longer than one month
  2.      Swollen neck glands
  3.      Painful chronic oral ulcerations
  4.      Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  5.      Growths or masses on the tongue, cheek, palate or areas surrounding the teeth
  6.      Abnormal sensations of the lip, chin or tongue

Some of the major risk factors for oral cancer include:

  1.      Tobacco use
  2.      Alcohol use
  3.      Exposure to viruses like HPV
  4.      Chronic inflammation or irritation
  5.      Exposure to known carcinogens
  6.      Family history of genetic susceptibility to cancer 

Cancer treatment success is highly dependent on a multidisciplinary team approach. As a part of the University of Texas at Houston Medical School, Hermann Hospital, Harris Health and Methodist hospital, Drs. Shum and Melvillle work alongside leading oncologists, radiation therapists, geneticists, maxillofacial prosthodontists, radiologists, and reconstructive surgeons to provide the highest level of oral, head and neck cancer care. Schedules are coordinated to maximize treatment efficiency and reduce time from diagnosis to removal.

Diagnosing cancer is multi-step process that often includes:

  1.      A consultation and physical examination by Dr. Shum or Dr. Melville
  2.      Removal of a piece of the suspicious tissue as a biopsy
  3.      Nasopharyngolarygnoscopy, or viewing the throat and vocal cords with a camera
  4.      Imaging which may include an MRI, CT scan, chest x-ray or PET scan

Treatment of oral, head and neck, cancer varies depending on the type of cancer but generally includes the following modalities:

  1.      Surgery
  2.      Chemotherapy
  3.      Radiation

Many reconstructive options exist to address defects after tumor removal. These may include:  

  1.      Use of local tissue for coverage
  2.      Microvascular free flap reconstruction
  3.      Titanium bars and screws
  4.      Bone, skin, muscle harvesting and transfer to another location.

Drs. Melville and Shum are uniquely qualified to both remove cancerous lesions and reconstruct defects with the latest techniques.  Our comprehensive surgical care includes removal of the tumor, reconstruction of the facial skeleton and soft tissue to placement of dental implants to restore oral function.