Oral cancer

You are here: 

Treatments for metastatic oral cancer

If you have metastatic (stage 4C) oral cancer, your healthcare team will suggest treatments based on your needs and work with you to develop a treatment plan. They will usually do a nutritional assessment and dental assessment before treatment begins. You may need a feeding tube to make sure you get enough nutrition during treatment. It is important to have any necessary dental work done before treatment starts.

Metastatic oral cancers are often treated with radiation therapy, chemotherapy or both. The following are treatment options for metastatic oral cancer, including treatment for a tumour that can’t be completely removed or for someone who cannot or chooses not to have surgery.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy may be given as brachytherapy, external beam radiation therapy or both.

Radiation therapy may be given at the same time as chemotherapy (called chemoradiation) or it may be used after chemotherapy. Palliative radiation therapy may be given alone to treat symptoms.


Induction chemotherapy may be given and followed with radiation therapy or chemoradiation. Chemotherapy may be given alone to treat symptoms.


Surgery may be used to control symptoms. Surgery may be used to remove a tumour that is blocking the airway to make breathing easier.

If you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment

You may want to consider a type of care to make you feel better without treating the cancer itself. This may be because the cancer treatments don’t work anymore, they’re not likely to improve your condition or they may cause side effects that are hard to cope with. There may also be other reasons why you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment.

Talk to your healthcare team. They can help you choose care and treatment for advanced cancer.

Clinical trials

Talk to your doctor about clinical trials open to people with oral cancer in Canada. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, find and treat cancer. Find out more about clinical trials.


A teenaged girl sitting on her bed I was in total shock when I heard the diagnosis of cancer. Cancer to me was an adult’s disease. Being a 13-year-old teenager, it certainly wasn’t even on my radar.

Read Sabrina's story

Taking action against all cancers

Icon - question mark

The latest Canadian Cancer Statistics report found that of all newly diagnosed cancers in 2017, half are expected to be lung, colorectal, breast and prostate cancers. Learn what you can do to reduce the burden of cancer.

Learn more