Regrowth the human tongue
The goal of treatment for tongue cancer is to remove the tumor as completely as possible and to eliminate all cancer cells in the body. Only then is a complete healing possible in principle.
For the treatment of tumors in the mouth and jaw area are available mainly three procedures available: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Doctors often combine multiple cancer therapies to improve the chances of recovery. Which treatments are eligible depends on the The size and extent of the tumor in the tongue. Often the tongue cancer is not limited to the organ, but spreads via the lymphatic system into the lower jaw or neck.
As with any type of cancer, there are several specialists involved in the treatment of tongue cancer. These include, for example, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, neurosurgeon, oncologist, ENT specialist, radiologist and pathologist. The medical team will discuss with you which therapy will be most successful in your case.
Surgery for tongue cancer
During an operation, doctors try to remove the malignant tumor as well as any metastases that may be present. The smaller the tumor, the gentler the surgical procedure and only part of the tongue is removed. If the cancer is more advanced, surgeons will have to remove larger parts of the tongue. Glossectomy is the technical term for it.
The surgeon also removes lymph nodes in the neck area during the procedure (preventive). Because carcinomas in the mouth and jaw area often spread via the lymphatic system and form cancerous settlements (metastases). Sometimes it is not just the removal of the cervical lymph nodes, but doctors also remove the surrounding tissue with blood vessels, nerves and muscles. Doctors refer to this procedure as "neck dissection".
Thanks to sophisticated surgical techniques, surgeons can now easily cut out the malignant tissue and still largely preserve the function of the organ. This means that the tongue can still perform its tasks such as eating, swallowing or speaking after the operation. This saves those affected from serious losses in quality of life.
Radiation therapy for tongue cancer
Radiation is another important method in the treatment of tongue cancer. Radiologists set up high-energy ionizing X-rays directly on the tumor tissue. The rays damage the results of the cancer cells so much that they can no longer multiply and perish.
Doctors often use radiation therapy after an operation. In this way, they also destroy cancer cells that the surgeon did not "catch" during the procedure in the tongue or throat area.
Sometimes the treatment starts with radiation in order to reduce the size of the tumor in the tongue. Then he can be operated on more gently and doctors can preserve larger parts of the tongue.
Chemotherapy for tongue cancer
In some people, tongue cancer is more advanced. Cancer cells have detached themselves from the tumor, embarked on “wandering” and settled in other areas. These daughter tumors (metatases) can no longer only be treated locally.
This is where chemotherapy helps acts throughout the body. Oncologists administer drugs that are called Cell toxins (Cytostatics) work. They prevent cancer cells from dividing and multiplying and let them die. To be on the safe side, doctors usually start chemotherapy after all visible tumor foci have been removed.
Also a combination of radiation and chemotherapy - a so-called Radio chemotherapy - is possible. And for patients with advanced, no longer operable tongue cancer, radio-chemotherapy is also an option. In this way, cancer can often be contained and stopped.
Tongue Cancer: Research into New Treatments
In addition, researchers are developing other cancer therapies, for example the Immunotherapy. It does not start with the cancer cells themselves, but with the immune system. The media cements sharpen the immune system and ensure that the immune system takes action against the cancer cells again. Doctors are already using immunotherapy for lung cancer or skin cancer. In the future, it might also help people with tongue cancer.
In a study with patients suffering from advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck and some of whom already had metastases, doctors used immunotherapy with a special drug: a checkpoint inhibitor. The drug releases, so to speak, the “braking system” of the immune system. The immune cells then attack the cancer cells again and render them harmless. According to initial results, the cancer could be stopped and in some cases the tumor even regressed.
Researchers are also investigating whether the combination of immunotherapy with radiation therapy or radio-chemotherapy works even better.
Also on targeted drugs (“Targeted therapy”), which are directed against certain characteristics of cancer cells or cut off the blood supply to the tumor, is being researched. Antibodies of this kind are already used in various types of cancer, such as breast cancer and lung cancer.
Tongue Cancer: Follow-up Care Is Important
Follow-up care for tongue cancer is very important in order to check the success of the treatment and to quickly recognize a possible relapse (relapse). Follow-up care takes place in specific time control intervals and includes a wide variety of examinations.
You will have follow-up visits every one to three months for the first year after diagnosis. Up to the fifth year, the controls are only necessary every six months. After that, annual checks are sufficient.
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