Head & Neck Cancer Treatment & Therapy Options
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At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), surgery is often the first line treatment option for head and neck cancers.
Some patients may be treated with surgery alone; for other patients, combining head and neck cancer surgery with radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy may be appropriate.
Your doctor will work closely with you to ensure that your treatment has the best outcomes for your health and well-being. As with all cancer treatments, head and neck cancer surgery can have some side effects. Your doctor can explain these potential side effects when addressing your head and neck cancer treatment options.
We also perform surgery for patients with advanced-stage and recurrent cancers, often in combination with radiation therapy, chemotherapy or targeted therapy.
Head and Neck Cancer Surgery & Surgical Oncology Procedures
Depending on the type and stage of head and neck cancer, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following procedures:
Microsurgery for Head and Neck Cancer
Plastic surgeons can reconstruct areas of the head and neck affected by cancer with reconstructive microsurgery. It may be possible to reconstruct the nose, tongue or throat using tissues from other areas of the body, such as the thigh, abdomen or forearm. The lower jawbone (mandible) can be reconstructed using the smaller bone from the lower leg (fibula). For patients with facial paralysis secondary to tumor removal, transfer of a small muscle from the inner thigh can be performed to restore a smile.
Radiation Therapy for Head and Neck Cancer
Radiation therapy uses targeted energy to kill cancer cells, shrink tumors and provide relief of certain cancer-related symptoms. At CTCA, we use highly targeted radiation therapies to kill tumors, along with other effective head and neck cancer treatments, like surgery and chemotherapy, to fight against the growth of new cancer cells.
Our radiation oncologists deliver high radiation doses to cancerous cells in the head and neck, while sparing healthy tissue and organs. By focusing the radiation directly on the tumor, these therapies minimize the risk of common side effects associated with head and neck cancer treatment.
Head and Neck Cancer Chemotherapy
At CTCA, head and neck chemotherapy treatments are typically reserved for patients whose cancer has metastasized to the bone or elsewhere in the body.
Chemotherapy may be used for the treatment of head and neck cancer in several ways:
- Advanced-stage Cancer: Chemotherapy may be combined with radiation therapy to control tumors that are in more advanced stages. This approach, called chemoradiation, may help a patient to avoid surgery, and preserve normal speaking abilities.
- After Surgery: Chemotherapy can remove any remaining cancer cells following head and neck cancer surgery. This approach, called adjuvant treatment, may help reduce the risk of recurrence.
- Reducing Symptoms: Sometimes, a tumor is too large to be completely removed and radiation therapy has been able to control the growth of cancer cells. When this happens, chemotherapy can be used to reduce the severity of symptoms caused by the cancer.
Head and Neck Cancer Targeted Therapy
Targeted drug therapies block the growth and spread of cancer by preventing cancer cells from dividing or destroying them directly. Unlike chemotherapy, which affects all cells in the body, targeted drugs block or kill cancer cells and spare more healthy cells, reducing side effects and improving your quality of life.
One potential target in head and neck cancer is the epidermal growth factor receptor, or EGFR. Your doctor may suggest using an EGFR-targeted drug in combination with chemotherapy or radiation therapy for head and neck cancers, such as laryngeal or hypopharyngeal cancer. If the cancer has stopped responding to radiation and chemotherapy, then an EGFR-targeted drug may be used on its own to help control the disease.