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Follow-up care after treatment of oral cancer

Follow-up is crucial for diagnosing and treating recurrence and any possible secondary malignant tumors early (7). It also provides the opportunity for determining side effects of treatment as well as to provide psychosocial support. Patients should be monitored for 5 years. Only 15% of recurrences appear later than 3 years after treatment is over (6).

Number of consultations per year:

  • 1st year: 3–4 visits
  • 2nd year: 2–3 visits
  • 3rd year: 2–3 visits
  • 4th-5th year: 1–2 visits

Follow-up in the first year should take place at the treating hospital and later with the referring physician/clinic.

Each follow-up visit should include a complete physical examination with relevant endoscopic examinations as well as ultrasound of the neck. An X-ray of the neck may be necessary.

In cases where the thyroid gland is irradiated, T4 and TSH should be measured once a year.

Effects of treatment

Treatment causes varying degrees of side effects. Most side effects will disappear after treatment is over.

Patients who have undergone radiation therapy may have chronic side effects in the form of:

  • salivary gland dysfunction
  • dry mouth
  • taste disturbances
  • tooth decay
  • periodontal disease
  • osteoradionecrosis
  • trismus

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