This first step in cancer treatment is to assess current cancer—the size and thickness of the lesion or tumor and where it is in your oral cavity. Your oncologist can develop a treatment plan with an accurate assessment.
Oral Cancer Assessments
The 'T' category refers to the size of the primary tumor. The measurement can range from 'TX' when the tumor cannot be assessed to 'T4b' when the primary tumor has grown through nearby structures.
The 'N' category records whether and how far the tumor has grown into lymph nodes. The stages range from 'NX' when the advancement cannot be assessed to 'N3' when cancer has spread to a lymph node and measures 6cm across or more.
The 'M' category notates whether or not cancer has spread to distant sites. 'M0' indicates no spread, and 'M1' indicates that the tumor has spread.
Finally, the cancer professional will document which stage to which cancer has developed. Stages range from I to IV, with designation between each step.
When oral cancer is detected and assessed early, surgery and radiation are the most common treatments. If cancer has progressed to later stages, the oncologist may use a combination of treatments. For instance, your therapist may choose to combine chemotherapy and radiation.
Newer treatment involves targeted therapy in which drugs directly target the cancerous cells. Cancer begins when the genes in our cells start to mutate. Researchers identify the genetic changes that radicalize the cells and develop drug therapies that target the specific mutation. The FDA has approved many drugs for targeted treatment, and many more are in one of many stages of development.
A preliminary diagnosis of oral cancer can be scary, but knowing your treatment options can help overpower those fears. If you have questions or concerns, give us a call. We'll perform a thorough examination and talk to you about treatment options.