Specialized treatment options for patients diagnosed with head and neck cancers

Our interdisciplinary team offers comprehensive treatment options tailored to each patient. We place a high priority on improving survival rates for cancer patients and care greatly about the overall health and well-being of all patients.

Tumors and cancers of the head and neck

The Head and Neck Surgical Specialty Group treats patients diagnosed with many common and rare otolaryngological tumors and cancers, including but not limited to:

Tumors involving the head and neck and related structures

There are three types of growth that can occur in the oral cavity and the oropharynx: benign (not cancerous), precancerous and cancer tumors.

Symptoms of head and neck cancers include:

A lump in the neck

Typically, cancers that first present in the head or neck spread to the lymph nodes before spreading to other parts of the body.

A lump (or lumps) in the neck can be the first sign of cancers in the mouth, throat, larynx, thyroid gland or salivary glands.

See a doctor as soon as possible if a lump in the neck appears for two weeks or more.

Voice changes 

The majority of cancers in a person’s voice box cause a change in their voice.

Most voice changes are not caused by cancer, but if someone is hoarse or voice changes persist for more than two weeks, they need to see a doctor.

A growth in the mouth

A sore mouth or swelling in the tongue could be a sign of cancer.

These sores might be painless but could still indicate a tumor or cancer. If a person has an ulcer or swelling in the mouth or tongue, along with lumps in the neck that persist for more than two weeks, it’s important to consult a physician.

A doctor will determine if a biopsy performed by an ENT specialist is needed.

Bleeding

While bleeding in the mouth is usually caused by something other than cancer, in some cases, bleeding can be caused by tumors in the nose, mouth, throat or lungs.

Difficulty swallowing

Cancers that begin in the throat or esophagus can make it difficult to swallow. If a person has a problem swallowing every time they try to eat, they need to see a doctor.

Changes in the skin

Basal cell skin cancer is the most common type of head and neck cancer. However, this type of cancer is rarely serious if diagnosed and treated early on.

Basal cell cancers typically appear on skin that is often exposed to the sun, such as the forehead, face and ears. This type of cancer usually starts as a small, pale patch on the skin that enlarges slowly.

There are other kinds of cancer that can occur on the head and neck, such as squamous cell cancer and malignant melanoma. Moles on the neck and head could also be a sign of a tumor or cancer.

Look out for moles that change size, change color or start to bleed, which may indicate cancer.

Earache that does not go away

Persistent earache can be a sign of tumor growth or an infection in the throat. Visit an ENT specialist if a persistent earache is accompanied by painful swallowing, hoarseness, or a lump in the neck.

For more information on symptoms of head and neck tumors and cancers, visit the website for the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Laryngeal cancers and pharyngeal cancers

Most Laryngeal cancers (which start in the larynx) and pharyngeal cancers (which start in the pharynx) begin as a pre-cancer called dysplasia, in which these cells appear abnormal but not exactly like cancer cells.

There are rare cancers that can begin in the larynx or pharynx, such as minor salivary gland cancers.

Oropharyngeal cancer

Oropharyngeal cancer refers to cancers of the oropharynx, or the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and the tonsils.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV is believed to be the cause of 70 percent of oropharyngeal cancers in the U.S. Smoking can also increase a person’s risk of this type of throat cancer.

Symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer include persistent sore throat, earaches, hoarseness, swollen lymph nodes and painful swallowing.

Treatment for oropharyngeal cancer depends upon the stage of the cancer, the patient’s overall health at the time of diagnosis, and how best to maintain their ability to speak and swallow as normal as possible.

According to the National Cancer Institute, oropharyngeal tumors related to HPV infection have a better prognosis (and are less likely to return) than tumors not linked to HPV infection.

Salivary gland cancers

There are many different types of both benign and malignant tumors that may develop in the salivary glands. Benign salivary gland tumors are almost never life-threatening and can be completely removed through surgery.

Most salivary gland cancers are rare. Due to the location of the salivary glands, these types of cancers can be detected and treated early.

Early detection for head and neck cancers is crucial

Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of deaths that are the result of a head or neck cancer.

Tobacco use doesn’t just include smoking. Smokeless or spit tobacco can also cause diseases and cancer of the mouth.

Additionally, e-cigarettes and vaping products may also pose health risks and should not be viewed as a “safe” alternative to smoking. Along with tobacco, alcohol is the most common cause of cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box and tongue.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 70 percent of cancers of the tonsils, tongue and back of the mouth are linked to HPV. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the U.S.

The CDC states that the HPV vaccine does protect against the types of HPV that can cause oropharyngeal cancers, so it may also prevent these cancers.

If detected early, some of these head and neck cancers can be cured successfully with few side effects.

Don’t wait until symptoms get worse — talk to your doctor as soon as possible at the first sign of these head and neck cancers.

The Head and Neck Surgical Specialty Group is here to help patients get the treatment they need and aid in improving your overall health.