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Making the Decision to Have Radiation Therapy for Oral Cancer

Your doctor may recommend radiation therapy for you in any of the following situations:

  • You have localized oral cancer without any evidence of cancer spread. In this case, you may have external radiation, especially if surgery is not an option for you.

  • You have a medium to large sized tumor, or the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. Radiation therapy may be used along with chemotherapy as the initial treatment.

  • You’ve just had surgery for a medium to large tumor. In this case the doctor may recommend radiation to help ensure the tumor was destroyed.

  • You’ve already had surgery or another treatment and your cancer has come back.

  • You’re having pain from oral cancer that has spread to your bones. In this case, your doctor might recommend radiation to the bony area.

You will talk with a radiation oncologist, a doctor who specializes in both cancer and radiation. You’ll find out what type of radiation you need, at what dose, what side effects to expect, and how long the radiation therapy will last. During your visit, ask what you can expect to feel during and after the treatment. To help deal with the medical information and remember all your questions, it is helpful to bring a family member or close friend with you to doctors' appointments. In addition, bringing a written list of concerns will make it easier for you to remember your questions.

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