How Oral Cancer Treatment can affect your eating?

Ways in which Oral Cancer Treatment can affect your eating


Mouth cancer or oral cancer is an irreversible disease wherein cancer can affect any part of your mouth such as the lips, jaw bone, tongue, cheeks, gums and the area below the tongue. Cancer is a very debilitating disease; it affects your eating, swallowing, speech, facial looks and your confidence. Mouth cancer treatment is expensive and long term and may involve surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In spite of the best treatment there is a significant decrease in the quality of life.

One major concern while giving mouth cancer treatment is how to ensure the patient is able to eat well after the treatment. Surgical treatment usually involves removal of the visibly diseased area along with a safety margin of about 1 cm and removal of neck lymph nodes. Bases on the size of the defect, the surgeon will choose an appropriate modality for reconstruction of the defect. Reconstruction of the defect usually requires a local flap or regional flap or a fee flap. Soft tissue flaps are only able to close the wound and help give some bulk to the healing area; they do not help replace the lost bone and do not allow missing teeth to be replaced. A hard and soft tissue flap, such as a free fibula flap helps replace the resected jaw bone and ensures the possibility of placing dental implants to replace the teeth. After the surgery, depending on the individual case, the patient may have to undergo chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.

Depending on the site and extent of the cancer, part of your mouth may need to be removed during surgery. Although it affects the speech and looks, the most significant function that is affected is eating. Loss of the lips makes mouth closure difficult and may cause drooling and food spillage. Loss of the teeth and jaw bone can cause difficulty in chewing. Removal of the tongue and/ or other muscles makes chewing and swallowing uncomfortable and can lead to pouching of food to one side. Also, inability to clean the mouth after eating can also infect the surgical site. This is why the first few days after surgery, your doctor will allow only intake of clear fluids through a nasal feeding tube.

Chemotherapy also affects the diet. Patients on chemotherapy often experience nausea and vomiting. There is dryness in the mouth and throat that makes chewing and swallowing painful. Patients are usually advised to increase their intake of soft foods and high calorie and protein rich fluids. Foods that are very spicy, greasy and sugary are best avoided. Foods high in soluble fibre are preferred. There is also a chance that patients may experience a change in taste, burning sensation and dry mouth. Your doctor may prescribe artificial saliva substitutes to help relieve the symptoms. Radiation therapy has effects similar to those of chemotherapy on the oral cavity. In addition to the above side effects, radiation also causes the remaining teeth to be more prone to decay. This radiation induced decay can make eating even more uncomfortable. The end result of difficulty with eating well is malnutrition.

Prevention of oral cancer is the best policy; but early diagnosis and timely treatment are extremely important too. The goal of appropriate reconstruction during the surgery is to help achieve good equilibrium of the oral hard and soft tissues, so that daily functions such as eating and speech are not hampered much. There a few oral appliances that can be used after surgery to help train the remaining muscles to function better.

To understand more about Oral cancer treatment options and post treatment rehabilitation options, feel free to contact The Maxfac Clinic on +91 8879745345. We are a super-speciality clinic providing Mouth Cancer treatment in Mumbai.