In Finland about 600 cancers of the head and neck area are detected each year. The most common cause is heavy drinking and smoking. Cancer of the oral cavity is usually treated with surgery, with the aid of radiation therapy or chemoradiotherapy. During the operation, healthy tissue from around the growth is also removed and, as a result, tissue grafts often have to be used in connection with surgery for mouth cancer. The operation lasts between four and eight hours and requires facilities for intensive monitoring. The patient is given a general anesthetic for the night following the operation.
Just under 200 operations requiring major reconstruction of the tissue are carried out in Finland every year. The patient's prognosis in cases of oral cavity cancer depends very much on when the growth is detected. If the cancer is diagnosed early on, when it has not grown large or spread by metastasis, the prognosis is excellent. In such cases, 90% of patients are still alive after five years.
The average time the patient remains in hospital after surgery is one to two weeks. The length of sick leave is typically between a few months and a year, depending on the size of the cancer and the extent of the operation.
Dentistry has a major role to play in the treatment of oral cavity cancer, because teeth also have to be extracted during surgery. The removed teeth have to be rebuilt in one way or another. Dental implants are often used.
The removal of oral cavity cancers and the reconstruction of tissues are operations that previously could not be undertaken in Finland.