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Head and neck cancer

The information on this page was reviewed and approved by
Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science at CTCA.

This page was updated on July 14, 2021.

Head and neck cancer is a complex disease. Were here to help.

Head and neck cancer is a term used to define cancer that develops in the mouth, throat, nose, salivary glands, oral cancers or other areas of the head and neck. Most of these cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, or cancers that begin in the lining of the mouth, nose and throat. Eighty-five percent of head and neck cancers are linked to tobacco use, and 75 percent are associated with a combination of tobacco and alcohol use.

Because of their location, head and neck tumors and treatment-related side effects may impair patients’ ability to eat, swallow and breathe. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), our multidisciplinary care team of head and neck cancer experts works with patients to help them make informed decisions about their treatment options, while also offering therapies to manage potential side effects.

What you should know after a head and neck cancer diagnosis

Treatment options

female patient being assisted as she goes into an MRI scanner

At CTCA®, we target head and neck tumors with a range of evidence-based treatments, such as radiation therapy, surgery and chemotherapy, as well as immunotherapy and targeted therapy. Your multidisciplinary team of head and neck cancer experts will answer your questions and recommend treatment options based on your unique diagnosis and needs. Treatments for head and neck cancer include:

Surgery is often the first-line treatment option for this type of cancer, but it may be combined with radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy.

Immunotherapy drugs called checkpoint inhibitors are designed to disrupt proteins that cancer cells use to disguise themselves from the immune system.

Targeted therapy
These drugs are designed to block cancer’s growth by attacking specific proteins that may help cancer cells grow or divide.

Chemotherapy treatments for head and neck cancer are typically reserved for patients whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Radiation therapy
Radiation therapy delivers high doses of radiation to tumor cells using technology designed to reduce damage to healthy tissue and organs.

Learn more about treatments for head and neck cancer

​Supportive care

We understand that managing the side effects of head and neck cancer treatment is part of the battle. Many patients, for example, experience pain, nausea, neuropathy and other conditions that impact their quality of life during and after treatment. In addition to delivering evidence-based medical treatments for head and neck cancer, we offer a range of supportive care therapies designed to help you stay strong and maintain your quality of life. Therapies recommended to head and neck cancer patients may include:


​Nutritional support

Every patient has the option of meeting with a registered dietitian.


​Pain management

Pain management is a branch of medicine focused on reducing pain and improving quality of life through an integrative approach to care.


​Oncology rehabilitation

​Oncology rehabilitation includes a wide range of therapies designed to help you build strength and endurance.

Hector Nunez

Hector N.

Head and Neck Cancer

"I met with my care team to evaluate my specific cancer and discuss treatment. Everyone was so warm, and made us feel safe and at peace. There is simply a wonderful atmosphere of togetherness at the hospital, and I knew it was where I wanted to go for treatment. Later, I learned that is one of the guiding principles of CTCA, the Mother Standard of care—to treat patients as you would any member of your own family."


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