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How is tongue cancer treated?

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Quick Answer

Doctors treat tongue cancer with a variety of procedures, including various types of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and targeted drug therapy. Doctors may use any single one or combination of these treatments, depending on the type, location and extent of the cancer. Because tongue cancer and its treatments may inhibit a patient's ability to speak or swallow, treatment also may involve an array of rehabilitative tools, such as surgery and physical therapy, states Mayo Clinic.

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Doctors treat tongue cancer with one of two types of surgery. In transoral surgery, surgeons remove the cancer through the mouth. For transoral surgeries involving difficult-to-access cancers, surgeons may use a robotic surgery device that provides them with more precision. For cancers that are larger or have spread, surgeons may perform an open surgery in which they remove the cancer through an incision in the patient's neck, describes Mayo Clinic.

There are three major nonsurgical treatment options for tongue cancer. Radiation therapy uses targeted doses of radiation to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy refers to a class of drugs that doctors introduce into a patient's body to kill cancer cells. Finally, targeted-therapy drugs attack the specific components of cancer cells that cause them to grow and spread, explains Mayo Clinic.

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