Learn About Treatment Options for Head and Neck Cancer
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This year, about 65,000 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx and thyroid.
More than 25 percent of oral cancers occur in people who do not smoke or have other risk factors.
Risks for developing head and neck cancers include smoking or smokeless tobacco, alcohol use, and exposure to viruses such as human papilloma virus (HPV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
Rates of head and neck cancer are nearly twice as high in men and are greatest in men over age 50.
Head and neck cancers arise from the cells that make up the face, mouth and throat. Because cancers in different locations behave differently, treatment depends on the cancer type and extent. Some common locations include:
- Nasal cavity/paranasal sinuses.
- Oral cavity (lips, gums, floor of mouth, oral tongue, cheek mucosa, hard palate, retromolar trigone).
- Oropharynx (base of tongue, tonsils, soft palate, oropharyngeal wall).
- Larynx (vocal cords and supraglottic larynx).
- Hypopharynx (pyriform sinuses, post-cricoid area, posterior pharyngeal wall).
- Salivary glands (parotid, submandibular, sublingual and minor salivary glands).
Treatment for head and neck cancer depends on several factors, including the type of cancer, the size and stage, its location, and your overall health.
- Surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are the mainstays of treating head and neck cancer.
- For many head and neck cancers, combining two or three types of treatments may be most effective. That’s why it is important to talk with several cancer specialists about your care, including a surgeon, a radiation oncologist and a medical oncologist.
- An important concept in treating head and neck cancer is organ preservation. Rather than relying on major surgery, an organ preservation approach first uses radiation and chemotherapy to shrink the tumor. This allows for a less extensive surgery and may even allow some patients to avoid surgery altogether.