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Mouth Cancer Treatment and Radiation Therapy  

Mouth cancer radiation is a specific way of applying radiation therapy techniques to be most effective against mouth cancer. We’ll review this in greater detail and well as discuss some of the important benefits and side effects. 

First of all radiation therapy is a way of directing a beam of radiation to cancerous areas with the goal of destroying cancer cells.  This type of radiation therapy may be appropriate for mouth cancer depending on several factors.  For example it may be used if the cancerous tumor is small and it is felt that the cancer can be destroyed by the radiation without invasive surgery.  Or mouth cancer radiation may be an appropriate treatment option to try to shrink the tumor in order to make it easier to remove completely surgically. 

There are two main types of radiation therapy which are used for mouth cancer radiation.  External radiation uses a machine which can focus a beam of radiation similar to an x-ray but more powerful on targets within the body which are believed to contain cancerous tissue or tumors.  In general the beam of radiation must pass through healthy tissue before it strikes the cancerous regions.  For most types of radiation therapy, this can damage the healthy tissue and cause a number of side effects.  We will discuss some of them shortly.

And the second major type of radiation therapy is called internal radiation.  It uses small radioactive pellets which are placed inside of the body close to the cancerous tissue.  It is left in the body for a predetermined amount of time to try to have intense radiation focused on the cancer and minimize the exposure to healthy tissue.  After the proper time has elapsed, these radioactive pellets are removed. 

In most cases the radiation beam is directed at targets within the mouth.  As the treatments progress, it tends to have an effect on healthy parts of the face and mouth.  For example it can cause soreness to the cheeks and gums.  It may also adversely affect the teeth such that removal may be necessary. 

Teeth may also need to be removed in order to provide clear access for the radiation beams to the areas meant to be treated.  Otherwise the teeth can act as a sort of shield and greatly reduce the effectiveness of the treatment. 

The skin on the face or cheeks tends to get very sore and may discharge some type of fluid.  This is a normal reaction to the radiation but it certainly is not the most pleasant experience in the world. 

Many areas can become inflamed and the management of pain can be an important consideration during mouth cancer radiation procedures. 

And irradiated skin should be protected from the sun following the treatment.  Given the amount of radiation parts of the face may have been exposed to, it would be wise to limit further exposure to UV rays from the sun. 

It should also be noted that this course of treatment typically extends over several weeks.  It is usually necessary to do so in order to give the healthy tissues a chance to heal and recover so that there is minimal damage.  Since the vast majority of radiation is intended to reach the cancerous tissue, the results continue to build and become more effective over the course of treatment.