UM Home | Faculties, Academies, Institutes & Centres | Home | Mouth Cancer | Treatments



Mouth cancer can be treated via surgical procedures, radiation and/or chemotherapy. Side effects such as pain may occur during/after treatment and medications may be administered to patients. Apart from that, psychosocial support is valuable to help patient combat the disease. At the terminal stage of disease, palliative care is needed to keep the patient as comfortable as possible.

    • Surgery is often advocated when the cancer is deemed resectable. Chances for complete removal and fewer disturbances of function and appearance are dependent on severity of the cancer. Mouth cancer may spread to nearby lymph nodes in the neck, thus requiring removal during the same operation.


    • Radiotherapy is a local treatment where high energy x-rays is used to kill cancer cells. This procedure is often used as an additional therapy following surgery, to help destroy residual microscopic cancer cells that may have been missed. Occassionally, radiotherapy alone may be enough to remove small tumors. As for big tumors, radiotherapy is applied to shrink big cancers prior to surgery. The same procedure may also be given to patients whose cancer is no longer resectable.
    • Side effects may occur depending on the amount of radiation used. Among the side-effects are dry mouth, tooth decay (which may be the effect of dry mouth), pain  in the mouth or throat due to ulceration and inflammation caused by the radiation, delayed healing after dental treatment, stiffness of jaws, difficulty in wearing denture due to change in the tissues or dryness of the mouth, alterations of tastes and smell during radiotherapy, changes in voice, redness of skin in the treated area and tiredness.
    • While the side-effects of radiation therapy can be distressing, your doctors and/or dentists can provide further advice on remedies to reduce or relieve each of these side-effects.


    • Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to destroy the cancer cells. These drugs are usually administered by injection and the procedure requires the patient to stay in the ward for several days.
    • Anticancer drugs affect rapidly dividing cancer cells as well as other healthy, dividing cells in such as the blood cells, the hair root cells and cells of the stomach lining. Therefore anticancer chemotherapy may decrease the body’s defense mechanism and may cause bleeding. Some of the side-effects of chemotherapy are similar to radiation therapy. These include dry, painful mouth, deep & tooth-ache like pain, infection and alteration in tastes. Hair loss may occur after receiving chemotherapy. However, upon termination of therapy, hair growth would return to normal state.


CCM 2.0 EDi - Copyright © 2008 - 2017 University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, MALAYSIA.