Squamous cell carcinoma is most common type of cancer found in the floor of the mouth. Squamous cells are thin, flat cells that line the mouth.
Early-stage floor of the mouth cancer is often treated with surgery only. Advanced cancer usually requires a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.
To adequately remove a tumor from the floor of the mouth, 1 ½ cm (3/4 of an inch) of normal tissue should surround the tumor. The surgeon can remove all the tissue up to the bone if the tumor is not attached to bone. If the tumor is attached to the bone, the surgeon might need to remove a portion of the jaw bone. Reconstruction surgery can replace the part of the jaw that is removed.
If the lymph nodes in the neck are affected, a neck dissection may be needed to remove the nodes.
Medical oncologists administer chemotherapy if cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other organs. The medicine circulates in the blood and disrupts the growth of the cancer cells. Chemotherapy medications are taken by mouth or given through a vein over a period of several months.
Chemotherapy is not curative for this type of tumor, but when combined with surgery it is helpful in controlling the tumor. Chemotherapy is prescribed for different reasons:
- After surgery to decrease the risk of the cancer returning.
- To slow the growth of a tumor and control symptoms when the cancer cannot be cured (palliative treatment).