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Throat cancer

Throat cancer treatment options

Treatment plans for throat cancer vary depending on a number of factors, including the type, stage and progression of the disease. Your multidisciplinary team of throat cancer experts will answer your questions and recommend treatment options based on your unique diagnosis and needs.

Common treatments for throat cancer include:

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy may be used after throat cancer surgery to kill remaining cancer cells. The treatment also may be used as a first-line treatment, either alone or in combination with radiation therapy, for patients whose throat cancer has advanced.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy drugs designed to help the body’s immune system identify and kill cancer cells may be recommended when throat cancer doesn’t respond to first-line treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy.

The US. Food and Drug Administration has approved specific checkpoint inhibitor drugs to treat metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinomas that do not respond to standard treatments.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy, a common treatment for throat cancer, may be used as a first-line treatment in early-stage cancers, and is typically used in combination with chemotherapy after surgery to treat advanced cancers. Radiation therapy also may be used to treat recurrent throat cancer.

Surgery

Surgery is the preferred treatment for early-stage throat cancers. The throat is comprised of the pharynx and the larynx. For advanced stage or recurrent throat cancer, we may combine surgery with other forms of treatment, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy. These treatments may be used to shrink the tumor before surgery. Nearby lymph nodes may also be removed during surgery to test for the presence of cancer.

Learn more about surgery for throat cancer

Targeted therapy

Laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers typically have an overabundance of the epidermal growth factor receptor, or EGFR, a protein found on the surface of many cancer cells that helps them grow and divide. Because laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers have more EGFR proteins than other cancers, drugs that target the protein may be used in combination with radiation therapy to treat some early-stage throat cancers. Targeted therapy drugs may also be used on their own or in combination with chemotherapy to treat certain advanced or recurrent throat cancers.