Treatment for mouth cancer

Main treatments for mouth cancer

The treatment you'll have for mouth cancer depends on:

You may be offered a combination of treatments including surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and targeted medicines and immunotherapy.

Your specialist treatment team will:

If you have any questions or worries, you can talk to your specialist team.


Surgery is usually needed to remove mouth cancer. You may also need to have some of the lymph glands in your neck removed.

Sometimes an area around the cancer may also need to be removed to stop the cancer coming back. This may include part of your tongue or jaw.

If a large part of your jaw or tongue is removed, you may need surgery to rebuild the area using skin or bone from another part of your body (reconstructive surgery).


Radiotherapy uses radiation to kill cancer cells.

Radiotherapy is often used to treat mouth cancer. It may be the only treatment you need if your cancer is found early.

You may also have radiotherapy:


Chemotherapy is medicine that kills cancer cells. It is sometimes given with radiotherapy for mouth cancer.

You may have chemotherapy for mouth cancer:

Targeted medicines and immunotherapy

Targeted medicines kill cancer cells. Immunotherapy is where medicines are used to help your immune system kill cancer cells.

Targeted medicines or immunotherapy are sometimes used to treat mouth cancer that:

What happens if you’ve been told your cancer cannot be cured

If you’ve been diagnosed with advanced mouth cancer, it may be hard to treat and not possible to cure.

The aim of treatment will be to slow down the growth and spread of the cancer, to help with the symptoms, and help you live longer.

Finding out the cancer cannot be cured can be very hard news to take in.

You’ll be referred to a team of doctors and nurses called a symptom control team or palliative care team.

They will help you to manage your symptoms and make you feel more comfortable.

The palliative care team can also help you and your loved ones get any other support you need.


Find out more

Page last reviewed: 19 June 2023
Next review due: 19 June 2026