Head and Neck Cancer Treatment
Types of Head and Neck Cancer and Related Conditions Treated
- Benign tumors and cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx (throat), larynx (voicebox), sinuses and skull base
- Benign and malignant tumors of the salivary glands
- Nasopharyngeal cancer and Merkel cell tumors
- Thyroid and parathyroid cancer, and many non-cancerous thyroid and parathyroid conditions, including thyroid nodules and hyperparathyroidism
- Melanoma and other skin and lip cancers
- Complications of radiation therapy, surgery or head and neck injuries
- Dysplasia of the oral cavity (abnormal cell growth that is not oral cancer)
- Oropharyngeal cancer
- Hypopharyngeal cancer
Treatment Options for Head and Neck Cancer
A number of current head and neck cancer treatment approaches are available that combine consecutive surgery, chemotherapy and definitive irradiation. These approaches help preserve organs, whether the cancer is localized or advanced. This combined therapy approach leads to longer cure rates with conservation of the involved organs, maintaining the patient's quality of life.
If detected early, most head and neck cancers can be cured with surgery or radiation therapy. Others respond well to combinations of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
The team agrees upon recommendations during the initial appointment and shares the treatment plan with their patients. This approach allows for coordinated evaluation and consultation during a single visit. Some patients, however, do not require assistance from the entire team.
Chemoradiation Offers Superior Results
In recent years, chemoradiation (chemotherapy and radiation given at the same time to provide the most effective treatment) has offered patients superior results compared to radiation alone for locally advanced and/or unresectable (a tumor that is unable to be removed surgically) squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN). But this improvement comes with a price: specifically, increased local side effects, including mucositis (irritation of the mucous membranes) within the radiation field, xerostomia (dry mouth), trouble swallowing, etc.
At Philadelphia's Fox Chase Cancer Center, our team of nationally-recognized medical oncologists, such as Barbara Ann Burtness, MD, offer new and innovative clinical trials that may result in improved treatment outcomes.
Many head and neck cancer patients require extensive surgical procedures, including microsurgery. In microsurgery, doctors are able to remove the tumor, but can then reconstruct the affected area for the best possible function and appearance. Highly skilled head and neck surgeons, John A. Ridge, MD, PhD, and Miriam Lango, MD, offer patients a great deal of experience in addition to an array of support services.
Transoral Laser Surgery
Many cancers of the head and neck require extensive surgery that can leave the face disfigured and can rob a patient of the ability to speak intelligibly, swallow or even eat solid food. Surgeons at Fox Chase Cancer Center are revolutionizing treatment with transoral laser surgery. It's hard to imagine that light could be superior to a scalpel, but the lasers used to treat head and neck cancers can do so much more. And more means less — less chance of infection, less healing time and less bleeding, swelling and scarring.
Read more on Transoral Laser Surgery »
There are several benefits to laser surgery:
- Patients more often retain their ability to speak normally after cancer of the larynx, or voicebox. Preserving the voicebox is more difficult with conventional surgery for laryngeal tumors.
- For some patients, it isn't necessary to perform radical surgery. With laser surgery, surgeons can remove sections of a tumor without excess bleeding. Less bleeding means better visualization of the tumor's margins. Since the boundaries of the tumor can be seen, surgeons are able to remove less of the affected organ.
- The procedure can be done without the need for open surgery. Often times, surgeons can access the affected organ via the mouth. Surgeons do not need to break the jaw or split the lip when using this laser procedure.
- Preserving function and appearance, together with the outstanding rehabilitation, make laser surgery superior.
Plastic and reconstructive surgeons Neal S. Topham, MD and Sameer A. Patel, MD, as well as oral surgeons and prosthodontists at Fox Chase, specialize in reconstructive surgery and other techniques to achieve the best possible cosmetic and functional results.
Eric Horwitz, MD, is a specialist in radiation oncology for head and neck cancer. They use intensity-modulated and conformal radiation therapy assisted by CAT Scan and MRI planning. This targeted approach improves the accuracy of the radiation by sparing the surrounding healthy tissue from radiation. Patients usually experience an increase in cure rate with fewer side effects.
For more information about head and neck cancer treatment at Fox Chase Cancer Center or to make an appointment, call 1-888-FOX CHASE (1-888-369-2427).
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