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Dealing With Diagnosis of Oral Cancer
If you have been diagnosed with oral cancer, your life may be changed forever. Its effect on your daily routine will depend on the severity of disease and its location. Regardless of the condition, it is possible to get help and determine ways to handle the challenges.
Oral cancer affects the mouth. It can start from anywhere – the tongue, lips, gums, floor or roof of the mouth. The dentist might suggest surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy – sometimes a combination of these. Cancer and treatments can alter the way you talk, eat and your overall appearance. All of these can be psychologically devastating.
Handling oral cancer diagnosis
The following are recommendations on how to deal with the cancer diagnosis:
Surgery often causes soreness and swelling that can make chewing and swallowing difficult. Radiation therapy can change the taste of food to bitter or metallic, or cause dry mouth. Some procedures can leave you nauseous. Patients may even lose their teeth.
However, almost all of these problems can be managed or will improve with time. Patients can make minor changes to improve their nutrition, including:
- If swallowing is hard, taking small portions every few hours may help, instead of large meals
- A diet of soft foods is preferable, including soups, beans, casseroles, and eggs
- Drink plenty of water to keep the mouth moist, or patients might need artificial saliva
- Spicing up foods with ingredients such as herbs and spices
- Spicy dishes are not advisable if the mouth is sore or infected
If a patient is not getting enough nutrition, they might receive a feeding tube for some time. This transfers food straight to the stomach without swallowing. A nutritionist will recommend what foods to eat and how to make the process easier.
Patients may start talking differently. This usually depends on the size and location of the tumor, and how much of the oral tissues were removed during surgery. Cancer on the tongue could make pronouncing “I,” and “r” sounds difficult. If there is a growth on the roof of the mouth, the voice might change or be lost altogether.
A speech or language therapist can assist the patient with speech. Sometimes, the dentist might fabricate a removable device to fill the lost tissue or teeth to make talking and eating more comfortable.
Surgery on the jaw, lips, or any part of the mouth can alter the person’s appearance. They may need to undergo plastic or reconstructive surgery to rebuild the bones and tissues. In most situations, the big scars will be invisible and typically fade with time. Patients can use camouflage makeup to cover scars and skin grafts. Some patients may need stoma (a surgical hole in the neck) to breathe, but it is usually short-term.
After being diagnosed with oral cancer, patients need support from their loved ones. They will probably deal with different levels of emotional trauma and stress due to the disease and the treatment procedure. It is advisable to join a cancer support group or talk to others who have gone through the same experience.
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