If you’ve been recently diagnosed with cancer of the head and neck, you and your family might be overwhelmed with questions and concerns. Your first decision is where to get treatment.
You want a place where you can get the most advanced treatment options available. A place where you are supported by a team of compassionate experts. A place where you are treated as a whole person.
MultiCare Regional Cancer Center is that place. We have the region’s best health care providers in the field on oncology. Our world-class treatment facility offers cutting edge technology in a welcoming and positive healing environment.
Learn about our comprehensive treatment approach, our cancer care team or more about cancer on the head and neck in the tabs below.
Cancer of the head and neck can occur in the nasal cavity, sinuses, lips, mouth, salivary glands, throat, or larynx (voice box).
Most oral cancers start in the lining of the lips or mouth where you have thin, flat cells called squamous cells. The oral cavity includes the following:
Most laryngeal cancers also form in squamous cells, in three main parts of the larynx:
Symptoms for these types of cancer include:
Risk factors for lip and oral cavity cancer include the following:
Some combinations, such as using tobacco and drinking alcohol, increase the risk more than using tobacco or drinking alcohol. The same is true for using marijuana if you have high-risk HPV infection.
Researchers are studying how people can make changes in their lifestyles to reduce their risk for cancer. One lifestyle change that may reduce the risk for oral cancer is eating fruits and fiber-rich vegetables.
Take the following steps for prevention of these types of cancer:
The following tests and procedures may be used:
The process used to find out if cancer has spread within the oral cavity, throat or larynx or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage of the disease in order to plan treatment.
Treatment for oral, lip and throat cancer is usually provided by a team of doctors who are experts in treating head and neck cancers. The team may include a medical oncologist, a head and neck surgeon, an oral (maxillofacial) surgeon or a radiation oncologist.
Surgery is a common treatment for all stages of cancers of the head and neck. The following surgical procedures may be used:
Even if the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the surgery, some patients may be given chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Treatment given after the surgery, to lower the risk that the cancer will come back, is called adjuvant therapy.
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. There are two types of radiation therapy:
For patients who smoke, radiation therapy works better when smoking is stopped before beginning treatment. It is also important for patients to have a dental exam before radiation therapy begins, so that existing problems can be treated.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping the cells from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy).
Because the lips, throat and oral cavity are important for breathing, eating and talking, patients may need special help adjusting to the side effects of the cancer and its treatment. The medical oncologist may refer the patient to other health professionals with special training in the treatment of patients with head and neck cancer. These include the following:
Chris Chen, MD
Umesh Chitaley, MD
Trevor Dennie, MD
Michael Harris, MD
Jack Keech, DO
Lindsey Martin, ARNP
Nehal Masood, MD
Denise Mitchell, ARNP
Lavanya Sundararajan, MD
Troy Wadsworth, MD
Xinda D Wang, MD