Mouth Cancer

11 March, 2022

Mouth cancer or oral tumours can affect various structures in the mouth such as the mucosa palate floor of the mouth, tongue, lips, gums and bones. There are various triggers or carcinogenic agents such as tobacco, alcohol, radiation and human papillomavirus, which can cause mouth cancer.

Mouth cancer occurs when carcinogenic agents act on cells altering their genetic material producing a mutation. These damaged cells can divide and multiply excessively in the body. Normally, the body controls the division and growth of cells, but if the balance of cell division and cell death is disturbed, a tumour can form. Here’s a look at the various stages of mouth cancer and treatment options at the best cancer hospitals.

Various Stages of Mouth Cancer and Treatment Options

Stages of Mouth Cancer

There are four main T stages of mouth cancer based on the size and depth of the tumour around the area of mouth cancer. These are T1 to T4.

  • T1 means the cancer is contained within the tissue of the mouth (oral cavity) and it is 2cm or smaller and 5mm deep or less.
  • T2 means the cancer is 2cm or smaller, and it is deeper than 5mm but no deeper than 10mm. Or the cancer is larger than 2cm but no larger than 4cm, and it is 10mm deep or less.
  • T3 means the cancer is larger than 4cm or deeper than 10mm.
  • T4a means cancer has grown further than the mouth area and into surrounding structures such as bone, skin or facial air cavities (sinuses).
  • T4b means cancer has spread to nearby areas such as the space behind the jaw, the base of the skull, or the area of the neck surrounding the arteries (carotid arteries).

Diagnosis of Mouth Cancer

Biopsy, MRI / CT scan / PET Scan is done to check the stage of mouth cancer and how the tumour is progressing. Once it is diagnosed, a systemic staging is done. In this process, medical experts will check if the cancer is contained around the mouth area or if it has spread to other areas of the body. This helps in deciding the protocol of the whole treatment.

Mouth Cancer Treatment

Mouth cancer treatment is specific to the stage of cancer. Every stage has different types of treatments and that’s why a patient should not be confused about treatment. They may need anything like surgery, chemotherapy or radiation depending on your diagnostic results.

  • Stage 1 and Stage 2 Mouth Cancer Treatment
    If we talk about stage 1 and stage 2 of mouth cancer, surgery is the only treatment. Radiation and chemotherapy do not play much role in these stages.
  • Stage 3 Mouth Cancer Treatment
    In Stage 3 of mouth cancer treatment, first, surgery is done, which is followed by radiation therapy.
  • Stage 4 Mouth Cancer Treatment
    The treatment of mouth cancer in stage 4 is a little different. It can be done in two ways. In cases where surgery is possible, surgery is done initially followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy. In cases where the disease is at a more advanced stage, neoadjuvant chemotherapy is performed as treatment followed by surgery.

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy means the mouth cancer patient is given chemotherapy first to reduce the size of the tumour before surgical treatment. Patients can further be advised for chemotherapy and radiation therapy after the surgery if required.

Surgery for Mouth Cancer

Any surgery for mouth cancer has three parts:

  1. Primary Excision – In this step, the main tumour is removed. There is only one goal of this surgery, which is to remove the maximum amount of cancerous tumour from the mouth.
  2. Neck Node Dissection – The second step of the surgery is neck node dissection. There are several lymph nodes situated around the neck area as mouth and neck cancer first spread to these areas.
  3. Reconstruction– Reconstruction is the third step of the surgery. In this part, the surgeon will check how much tumour is removed and the patient is given a cosmetically acceptable outcome so that the overall appearance of the patient after the surgery and treatment does not look very bad.

These are the main steps of mouth cancer surgery.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy includes destroying the tumour in the mouth by sending a high-energy beam towards the cancer cells. The radiations damage the DNA of the diseased cells. It is used before or after the surgery depending on the requirement and stage of mouth cancer.


Chemotherapy is a treatment method where anticancer drugs are used to destroy the cancer cells. It is used to shrink the size of cancer and sometimes it is used in combination with radiotherapy for effective cancer treatment.

These are the various treatment options for different stages of mouth cancer. Your doctor will decide the right course of treatment after a thorough diagnosis.

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