Surgery for Lip, Oral Cavity & Oropharyngeal Cancer

Minimally Invasive Approach

At Scott & White, some of our operations for head and neck cancer are performed with minimally invasive techniques. Benefits of minimally invasive surgery include:

  • Better cosmetic result
  • Quicker recovery times, allowing you to:
    • Return to your daily routine sooner
    • Begin future treatment sooner
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Less pain
  • Less blood loss
  • Lower risk of infection
  • Fewer complications

Not all patients are candidates for a minimally invasive approach. Factors affecting the decision to use minimally invasive techniques include:

  • Tumor size, stage or location
  • Patient obesity and health
  • Prior surgeries

Your Scott & White Integrated Care Team may recommend the surgical removal of all or part of your:

  • Lip
  • Mouth
  • Tongue
  • Palate
  • Jaw

Your physician will discuss which option for surgery is best for you. As with all operations, there are some risks. Your surgeon will discuss those risks with you.

Your Integrated Care Team may recommend other treatments in addition to surgery.

Surgical Procedures Offered for Lip, Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer

Tumor Resection

In this surgical procedure for oral cavity cancer, your surgeon will remove your entire tumor and some healthy tissue surrounding it.

Mohs Micrographic Surgery

In this surgical procedure for lip cancer, your surgeon will cut away skin and immediately check it under a microscope for cancer. The Mohs micrographic process is repeated until the skin sample is free of cancer.

Glossectomy

In this surgical procedure for tongue cancer, your surgeon will remove your tumor and entire tongue in a total glossectomy. In a partial glossectomy, your surgeon will remove your tumor and only part of your tongue.

Mandible (Jawbone) Resection

In this surgical procedure for oral cavity cancer, your surgeon will remove your tumor and your entire jawbone in a mandible resection. In a partial mandible resection, your surgeon will remove your tumor and a section of your jawbone. In many cases, your surgeon, assisted by a plastic surgeon, will replace your jawbone with a piece of bone from elsewhere in your body.

Your physician team, however, may recommend radiation and/or chemotherapy as first options before the surgical removal of your jawbone.

Maxillectomy

In a surgical procedure for oral cavity cancer, your surgeon will remove your tumor and your entire roof of your mouth (hard palate) in a total maxillectomy. In a partial maxillectomy, your surgeon will remove your tumor and a part of your hard palate. The resulting hole in your mouth will be filled with a special denture prosthesis.

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Special Procedures

Neck Dissection

Cancers of the head and neck in many cases spread to the lymph nodes in the neck. Your physician may recommend a neck dissection. In this surgical procedure, your surgeon will remove abnormal lymph nodes and the fatty tissue that surrounds them.

Tube Feeding and Gastrostomy

In some cases, the treatment for your head and neck cancer may affect your ability to eat normally. Your physician may suggest tube feedings.

Your tube feeding may be brief — six weeks or less. In this approach, a narrow, flexible tube will be inserted through your nose and into your stomach to provide sustenance.

If your need for nourishment is more chronic or longstanding, your physician may recommend a gastrostomy. In this procedure, your surgeon will make a small incision in your abdominal wall and insert a tube into your stomach to provide sustenance. This may be a permanent situation.

Tube feeding and gastrostomy may be necessary so that:

  • You do not fall behind in your nutrition.
  • You receive the necessary calories and vitamins you need to heal following surgery or during your chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

Tracheostomy

In some cases, your physician may recommend a tracheostomy so that you can breathe more easily:

  • If you’ve had an operation that results in some deformity of the jaws, palate or oral cavity.
  • If you’ve had reconstruction that results in so much swelling that your airway is blocked.

A tracheostomy is a surgical procedure to create an opening through the neck into your windpipe (trachea). Your surgeon will place a thin, flexible tube through the opening to provide an airway and to remove secretions from your lungs. This tube is called a tracheostomy tube or a trach tube.

In most cases, your trach tube is temporary and will be removed when your swelling goes down and you show signs of improvement.

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